A real strength of Seniors Rights Victoria is that we are a combined legal and advocacy service, employing both lawyers and advocates to work with our clients. So what do we mean by advocacy? And what do SRV advocates do?
The Advocacy Charter, developed by Action for Advocacy in the UK in 2002, defines advocacy as ‘taking action to help people say what they want, secure their rights, represent their interests and obtain services that they need. Advocates work in partnership with the people they support and take their side. Advocacy promotes social inclusion, equality and social justice’.
What does an advocate do?
The role of an advocate is fundamentally different from the role of an advice worker or friend. The difference can perhaps best be explained by the control over the relationship that is given to the older person. Examples of what an advocate does for an older person:
• Speaks up on behalf of the older person
• Encourages and empowers the older person to speak for themselves
• Ensures that the older person’s voice is heard
• Takes the side of the person they are representing
• Respects and protects the decisions and choices made by the older person
• Promotes the person’s rights
• Promotes social justice for the person.
Why older people experiencing abuse need advocates
Older people face unique barriers to reporting abuse. These include fear of loneliness, fear of being institutionalised, fear of not being believed, fear of being separated from family, and fear for the impact on the abuser – particularly if the abuser is a family member. What the older person may want to see as an outcome from an intervention may not be what someone else wants to see for them.
Older people are entitled to be in control of their own lives, but sometimes, whether through frailty, disability, financial circumstances or social attitudes, they find their ability to exercise choice or represent their own interests is limited. An advocate can help ensure that an individual’s views and needs are heard, respected and acted upon. Seniors Rights Victoria tries to make sure that advocacy is an empowering process for older people, and that our advocates are flexible and responsive to the circumstances of each case.
Advocacy is a central part of SRV’s service
Since Seniors Rights Victoria began operating in 2008, clients have told us how helpful the work of SRV advocates has been, in supporting them and helping them to access services, but also in giving them the confidence to act on their own behalf. Sometimes an older person who has been reluctant to take legal action has decided to do so later because of the trust and confidence built up by working with the advocate.
Our work has shown us that there is a great and growing need among older Victorians for individual advocacy. As Seniors Rights Victoria moves into the future we will continue to respond to this demand in the way we deliver our service.
I would not have known how to handle this situation on my own.
The advocate gave me enormous support and confidence to handle the staff at the service.
Without my advocate’s thorough understanding and constant effort I’m sure my situation would not have been resolved.