The case for advocacy in action

By Neil Bateman.

Arena, Ashgate Publishing

£14.95

ISBN 1 85742 200 7

A more realistic title for this book would have been A Handbook
on Professional Advocacy. As it is, the author makes problems for
himself by starting from the dubious assumption that there are real
connections between all the activities which all types of
professionals like to describe fashionably as advocacy.

It broadens the concept so much that the entire history of human
social progress can be rewritten almost as advocacy in action.

To demonstrate that self-advocacy has an honourable pedigree,
Bateman cites the influence of the trades unions in the development
of the welfare state as a prime example of self-advocacy.

Thank goodness the unions never let it slip that they were
practicing self-advocacy, or we would still be holding conferences
to decide whether starting the National Health Service would be a
good idea or not.

Equally, forcing some activities into this framework does not do
them justice. Bateman describes the citizen advocate as ‘friend,
counsellor, legal adviser, and general dogsbody’ – which indeed
looks a mess of roles unless it is recognised (as the author fails
to) that they are drawn together by the aim of bringing an
under-valued person into full membership of the community at
large.

Things get much better as the focus narrows to the advocacy work
of human service professionals, particularly, though not
exclusively, on welfare benefit and housing issues, and problems
which Bateman usefully distinguishes as ‘bounded': problems with a
clear solution, and a structure and timescale within which they can
be addressed.

After considering the ethics of advocacy, the largest part of
the book deals with advocates’ skills.

Although rather an assortment, these chapters are very helpful,
particularly those on negotiation, litigation, and legal research.
Useful case studies and exercises are included by Bateman,
supplementing these chapters.

He is a passionate advocate of advocacy, and his faith can be
irritating. In the real world of community care, the service user
often seems to be in a position far more muddled and powerless than
those portrayed in the tidy examples offered. But perhaps we don’t
want to hear the challenge in this book.

It’s much easier to resign oneself to hopelessness than to tease
out the bounded problems hidden within the unbounded ones; learn
the skills and fight to win.

Steve Dowson is an independent adviser in social care,
and was previously director of Values Into Action.

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