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Independent advocacy in adult support and protection work

Fiona Sherwood-Johnson (School of Applied Social Science, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK)

The Journal of Adult Protection

ISSN: 1466-8203

Article publication date: 11 April 2016




The purpose of this paper is to consider independent advocates’ perspectives on their roles in Scottish adult support and protection (ASP) work, and the facilitators and barriers impacting on these roles in practice.


Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 managers and staff from six independent advocacy agencies operating across nine local authority areas.


Participants described key roles in supporting individuals to understand their rights and to negotiate ASP processes. They conceptualised their independence to be the key distinguishing feature of their role. Participants noted lower than expected rates of referral of ASP concerns to advocacy and variable experiences of communication with the statutory services. Particular emphasis was placed on the late stage at which many referrals are received. Awareness, understanding and acceptance of advocacy amongst the statutory services was felt to vary at both practice and strategic levels.

Research limitations/implications

The sample is not a representative one. However, some commonalities are worthy of note: particularly the participants’ commitment to ASP work and the perceived impact of statutory agencies on their involvement in it. The issue of late referrals merits some consideration at a national level. Issues of awareness and understanding amongst the statutory services, and their links with referral rates, are for further local-level exploration. The independent advocacy community might wish to discuss further the impacts on them of incorporation into statutory frameworks.


Advocacy perspectives have been little drawn on in pre-existing ASP research.



Thank you to the independent advocacy managers and staff who participated in this project. Thanks also to the Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance for help and advice. This project was supported by a grant from the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland.


Sherwood-Johnson, F. (2016), "Independent advocacy in adult support and protection work", The Journal of Adult Protection, Vol. 18 No. 2, pp. 109-118.



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