In the UK there are dozens numerous organisations which provide various forms of advocacy using both paid staff and volunteers. Some advocates specialise in helping specific groups of people, such as people with mental health needs or people on the autism spectrum.
In some cases, people on the autism spectrum may be entitled to use the services of an independent advocate who is paid for by the local authority if “they are likely to have substantial difficulty in engaging with the care and support process”.
However, according to “Supporting adults with autism: A good practice guide for NHS and local authorities” (2003),
“People with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) are not receiving the advocacy support that they need. This is due to a lack of funding by local and central government and the unmet training requirements of advocacy organisations. As a consequence, advocacy organisations are unable to provide adequately for this group”.
Different countries have different regulations concerning qualifications for advocates. For example, NIMHE (2008) states that all independent mental health advocates will have to successfully complete the IMHA module of the National Advocacy Qualification within one year of being employed.
The Scottish Executive report on advocacy (2006) notes that, in addition to any qualifications,
“… an advocate needs: knowledge, tenacity, skills, resilience and a lot of common sense.”
One of the most important qualifications for advocates or self-advocates is that they should offer support that is clearly independent from service providers, carers or public authorities and that they understand the needs of their clients.
However, according to “Supporting adults with autism: A good practice guide for NHS and local authorities” (2003), many advocates have not been properly trained in how to deal with people on the autism spectrum.
“Advocacy organisations have an obvious need for training in awareness and understanding of autism. Over half the organisations had not previously been in contact with the NAS despite the fact that many advocated for people with an ASD. More than three quarters had not been in contact with a local autistic society. The majority of independent advocacy services are therefore operating in isolation with regards to autism.”