Who Can Be An Advocate?

Below is a list of different types of advocates:

1. Self-Advocates – are people who represent themselves.

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Sometimes self-advocates act completely on their own, and sometimes they get help from other people to make it possible to be self-represented. If lack of information is the biggest barrier for you in advocating for yourself, you can ask for help in researching information or understanding how a system works. Support from a loved one or a community peer can also help by giving you moral support.

2. Informal Advocates – are friends, family members, or other people who have no special training in advocacy,

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These are people you trust them to help you. Informal advocates usually can’t make decisions for you, but they can ask questions, suggest possible ways to solve a problem, challenge a decision, and educate someone else on your behalf.

3. Community Advocates – are people who act as your formal advocate.

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These are not professional advocates, but they have experience advocating for other people, and sometimes have specialized advocacy training. Like informal advocates, community advocates usually can’t make decisions for you but can attend formal meetings with you to provide you with information, advice, and support.

4. Professional Advocates – are licensed professionals who have formal training in advocacy – social workers, lawyers, etc.

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In BC, there are laws determining what a specific professional can and can’t do. For example, a lawyer can do some kinds of advocacy that can’t be done by another type of professional. Even when a professional is legally representing you (e.g., in court) they are still acting on your behalf and under your instructions. Professional assistance is often helpful when a system is so complicated that you don’t have a good chance of getting what you need without a professional to help you navigate through it.