Advocacy is defined as a key concept in social work practice. It is defined as exerting influence on behalf of organisations and groups within legal power and political structure.
” Advocacy involves either an individual or group, or
their representatives, pressing their case with
influential others, about situations which either
affect them directly or, and more usually, try to
prevent proposed changes, which will leave them
worse off” (Soloman 1985)
There are not many opportunities for technical advocacy at my placement. By technical I mean for example advocating on someone appealing on behalf of a social benefit. However there are some opportunities for personal advocacy. This is because the service users are from an Asian heritage background, which results in the majority of them having a definite language barrier because they do not understand or speak English very well. Service users find it difficult to voice their concerns and wishes; this makes them more vulnerable and marginalized from the rest of society.
A review and evaluation of Mrs R ‘s care plan was being undertaken by the social worker, however there was a definite language barrier because Mrs R’s first language is not English. The Official Languages Act 2003 cleary points out that interpretation and translation should be required if need be, due to Mrs R’s language barrier I was translating her wishes, feelings and concerns on her behalf. I was there to make sure her voice was heard and to encourage and support her. I also acknowledged her about how to seek independent advocacy if she felt she could benefit from this in the future. This is why advocacy was required in this situation.
Before discussing power issues throughout the advocacy, I will start off with a definition of power.
“Power is an ever present phenomenon in social life. In all human
groups, some individuals have more authority or inluence than
others, while groups themselves vary in terms if the level of
With regards to power issues I felt that the social worker, Mrs R and myself all had different power influences throughout the advocacy. I felt the social worker had expert power, she has had professional training, skills and knowledge compared to myself and Mrs R. she also had resource power in the sense that social workers are direct service providers and also positional power as she has professional status and also the fact that the final decision about the review and evaluation of Mrs R may be down to her.
I felt that I had power due to my multi language skills and the fact that language is power was evident throughout the meeting. I felt that if I wasn’t present then the social worker and Mrs R would have great difficulty in communicating with each other. Therefore I feel I had control in this area as I was translating what Mrs R was saying to the social worker and what the social worker was saying to Mrs R without my presence this would not have been possible. In this instance I felt I had power over the social worker and Mrs R.
Although social workers have considerable power over service users I felt that Mrs R also had power. This is because only she understands her needs strengths, desires and concerns and what she had to say had to be listened to and taken into account.
Partnership working was also evident throughout the advocacy process. I felt all three of us worked together to achieve desired outcomes. Mrs R and myself worked together as I as supporting and translating for her. Mrs R also worked and co-operated with the social worker in voicing her issues and the social worker and myself worked together on translating and the sharing of information.
The process of advocacy involved the social worker carrying out a review and assessment on Mrs R. The social worker would let me know what the question was or what she wanted to know and I would translate the question into Punjabi for Mrs R to understand and respond to. I would then feedback in English back to the social worker. I supported Mrs R and made sure her needs, wishes and concerns were voiced and I also acknowledged Mrs R of her rights.
This way of working was chosen to enable direct communication between the two, which would be impossible otherwise due to the language barrier of Mrs R. This way of working enabled all parties to be clear on the information being shared via translation. It was also more appropriate and comfortable for Mrs R who could clearly communicate her own needs and feelings in her own language being supported by myself rather than someone just speaking out for her without consulting her. In this way Mrs R was directly involved which is very empowering.
In reflection throughout the advocacy I noticed the significant difference that language plays throughout society. It made me realise that not having the language skills can be very oppressive to a person and can leave them marginalized from the rest of society. Therefore myself being bilingual I feel I played a positive role in the advocacy because both parties were reliant on the information I was passing on to one another. I felt that this did put a little pressure on myself as both sides were relying on my interpretation; therefore I had to make sure I was clear and exact in what I was saying. I feel I carried out this comfortably and with confidence and met the advocacy skills of careful listening, effective communication and interpreting as well as supporting the inner advocacy of Mrs R and her strengths to represent and speak up for herself.
I also felt I improved my interpersonal skills Punjabi and gained more confidence in this area. I also felt that Mrs R was comfortable and at ease with myself advocating on her behalf as she knows me from the day-care centre. Therefore we had a good understanding relationship where else if an out side translator was brought in it may have affected Mrs R ‘s openness and she may not have been relaxed as she was with myself.
I feel my knowledge and ability to communicate in two different languages and constantly switching from one to another is a great skill that can be used in advocacy where there is a language barrier and can also help fellow colleges, professionals and service users in aiding communication.
In conclusion the overall outcome of the advocacy about Mrs R’ s review and evaluation of her care plan was that all services were to remain the same. Both Mrs R and the social worker were grateful for my presence in aiding communication and the sharing of information.