Dictonary definition of advocacyWhat is advocacy?

Advocacy is the process of getting support from another person to:

  • speak on your behalf 
  • help you express your views and wishes, and
  • protect your rights.

Why use an advocate?

The person who speaks for you is your advocate.

An advocate can help you explain and say what you want, if you find it difficult to do so by yourself.

They can help you get your views or wishes across about issues that matter to you, such as the care or medical treatment which you receive, or the management of your finances.

An advocate can help you or someone you care for:

  • be involved in decisions about your life
  • explore choices and options
  • defend and promote your rights and responsibilities
  • speak out about issues that matter to you, express your views, wishes or feelings.

An advocate can:

  • contact people on your behalf
  • go to meetings with you to give you support
  • speak on your behalf when you don't feel comfortable speaking yourself
  • write letters and emails on your behalf.

Who can act as your advocate?

A family member or friend can act for you if you are happy for them to do so. This person is known as an "appropriate individual".

Who should not act as your advocate?

Someone who would not be an appropriate individual and therefore not act as your advocate would be someone who:

  • you do not want to support you
  • is being paid to provide your care or treatment
  • is unlikely to be able to properly support you to express your views
  • is unlikely to be available to properly support
  • has been found to have abused or neglected you, or has failed to stop other people abusing or neglecting you.

GPs, advocacy and interpretation

Discover more about advocacy and interpretation services provided by Tower Hamlets GPs to ensure everyone has access to primary medical care.

Advocacy and the law

It is the law that, in certain circumstances, the council must arrange for you to be supported by an advocate.

If you are not happy with treatment or care that you, a family member or friend has received from the NHS, you can make a complaint. If you find it difficult to complain yourself, you can ask for an advocate to help you.

POhWER  provide the NHS complaints advocacy service in Tower Hamlets. This service is free, independent and confidential.

NHS complaints advocacy can:

  • support you to make a complaint about care and treatment provided or funded by the NHS
  • support you to make a complaint on someone else’s behalf if they would like you to
  • listen to your concerns
  • answer any questions about the complaints procedure and explain your options
  • provide a step-by-step self-help guide to making your own complaint 
  • signpost you to the right organisations outside of the complaints process, if required
  • provide you with an advocate who can help you to make your complaint
  • support a young person under 16 if they have capacity to reach their own decisions. If a child does not have the capacity to make a decision about their treatment, only a parent or guardian may complain on behalf of their child without permission.

For further details contact POhWER.

Tel: 0300 456 2370

The Care Act says that people must be involved in decisions about their care and support needs.

If it is decided that you have ‘substantial difficulty’ being involved in decisions about your care, for example, if you do not understand, remember or use information, or cannot communicate your views, Adult Social Care must make sure you get the help you need. If you do not have a family member or friend who is able to help you, you have the right to an independent Care Act advocate.

A Care Act advocate will be able to support you to:

  • understand processes (including around safeguarding issues)communicate your wishes, views and feelings
  • make decisions
  • challenge any decisions that you disagree with
  • understand your rights.

If it is decided that you need a Care Act advocate, Adult Social Care will refer you to POhWER, who will be able to provide an advocate.

This service is free, confidential and independent.

Tel: 0300 456 2370
Email -

Independent Mental Health Advocates, ,often called IMHAs, support people with issues relating to their mental health care and treatment. They also help people understand their rights under the Mental Health Act.

IMHAs are trained in the Mental Health Act 1983 and can support people who are:

  • detained under the Mental Health Act (excluding sections 4, 5(2), 5(4), 135 or 136)
  • conditionally discharged restricted patients
  • subject to a Community Treatment Order
  • subject to guardianship
  • being considered for S57 or S58A treatment, or Electro-Convulsive Therapy

If it is decided that you need an IMHA, you will be referred to Mind in Tower Hamlets and Newham. You can also contact them yourself:

Telephone: 020 7510 108, email:

If it is decided that someone is "lacking capacity" to make a decision about their health and care support, they must be provided with an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate. These are often called an IMCA.

Only some professionals, such as a doctor or a social worker, can assess if someone is lacking capacity. This will not be a general assessment, but will be related to a specific decision around:

  • serious medical treatment given by the NHS
  • a change of accommodation
  • adult safeguarding procedures
  • care reviews
  • and must be assessed at the time the decision is to be made.

An IMCA may also provide support during an assessment around deprivation of liberty safeguards (DoLS)

"Lacking capacity" means that a person is not able to make a decision themselves. This could be because of:

  • learning disability
  • mental health illness
  • acquired brain injury
  • dementia
  • effects of substance abuse.

The role of an IMCA will include:

  • understanding the wishes, views and feelings of the person involved
  • speaking to people involved in providing and making decision about the person’s care
  • getting letters and other important relevant documents
  • attending meetings
  • challenging decisions.

If it is decided that you need an IMCA, you will be referred to POhWER who deliver the IMCA service in Tower Hamlets.

Telephone: 0300 456 2370, email:

If someone is deprived of their liberty under the Mental Capacity Act they must have a representative. This could be a family member or a friend, but if there is no "appropriate individual", a paid representative could be appointed. These are sometimes known as a RPPR.

A paid representative will:

  • regularly visit the person deprived of their liberty
  • help the person understand the decision around the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS)
  • help the person exercise their rights
  • ensure conditions related to the DoLS are met
  • where appropriate, ask for a review of the decision.

Referrals for a paid representative will be made by the council to POhWER who deliver the service in Tower Hamlets.

Telephone: 0300 456 2370, email:

Further information

If you would like an advocate to act on your behalf, you can contact Tower Hamlets Connect for advice. They may refer you on to another service or a social worker, or appoint one of their own advocates to support you. 

If you are a carer, you may be able to receive advocacy support from the Carers Centre,
telephone: 0207 790 1765.