For SHEP, advocacy is about being beside somebody, supporting them to get their voice heard and accessing their rights and entitlements. It is what we all do for each other as friends and family at different and perhaps difficult times in our lives. It is not about making an assessment and taking decisions about what’s in a person’s best interests. It is about listening, supporting, sometimes questioning or challenging a decision, and sometimes speaking up for a person. It is fundamental to SHEP’s commitment to empowering vulnerable or marginalised groups and communities and to the promotion of social justice.
A number of key principles underpin SHEP’s advocacy work in Cork Advocacy Service (CAS). These include:
- a fundamental respect for the individual
- the empowerment of the person
- the facilitation of informed choices
- and the independence of the advocate and the advocacy service.
The ultimate goal is self-advocacy – where the individual has the personal confidence and power to represent herself/himself without support from someone else.
In SHEP we also see advocacy as clearly linked to community development and social justice. It plays an important role in developing civil society and bringing about social transformation.