A Brief Overview of Advocacy in Fife (Scotland)?


This short article aims to introduce key concepts about advocacy in Fife, Scotland, including:

  • The importance of advocacy;
  • The principles and standards;
  • Types of advocacy; and
  • The services available for children, younger people, adults and older people in Fife.

Read in conjunction with What is Advocacy?.

What is Advocacy?

Advocacy IS:

  • Supporting people to speak about issues important to them;
  • A safeguarding role;
  • Supporting people to make their own choices and decisions;
  • Supporting people to have their views heard and increase their self-confidence; and
  • Representing the views of people when they are unable to do so for themselves.

Advocacy IS NOT:

  • Counselling;
  • Mediation;
  • Care/support;
  • Telling somebody what to do; or
  • Befriending.

What are the Two Types of Advocate?

  • Citizen Advocates:
    • Are volunteers from all walks of life who want to help others in their community.
    • They are a friend, an ally and a spokesperson and they take time out of their busy lives to support people who may not otherwise be able to put their own interests forward.
    • Advocates may help their partner with practical support and advice, or just be someone to turn to for moral support.
  • Advocacy Partners:
    • Are vulnerable adults looking for support and someone to speak up for them.
    • Partners are generally people with learning disabilities or other issues that mean they may risk isolation, social exclusion or unfair treatment.
    • Partners may also have a mental health need, physical disability or long-term (chronic) health condition that means they are at risk of being unable to safeguard their rights.
    • Partners may be people living independently, in long-term care or in supported housing.

What is an Advocacy Relationship?

  • An advocacy relationship is a mutual partnership in which the advocate’s sole loyalty is to their partner.
  • It is not a service provided to the person with a disability but a relationship of friendship and support between two individuals.

What is the Importance of Advocacy?

Independent advocacy services are critical to safeguarding and empowering those people who are most vulnerable and at risk be enabling them to express their views and to have their voice heard.

Advocacy has to main themes:

  • Safeguarding people who are in situations where they are vulnerable; and
  • Speaking up for and with people who are not being heard, helping them to express their views and make their own decisions and contributions.

What are the Principles and Standards of Independent Advocacy?

Independent advocacy should be provided by an organisation whose sole role is independent advocacy, or whose other tasks either compliment or do not conflict with the provision of independent advocacy. If the service or advocate has a conflict of interest, they should withdraw from acting for the person.

  • Listening:
    • Ensures people are listened to and their views are taken into account.
    • Recognises and safeguards everyone’s right to be heard.
    • Reduces the barriers people face in having their voice head because of communication, capacity, the political, social, economic and personal interests.
  • Loyalty:
    • Is loyal to the people it supports, and stands by their views and wishes.
    • Provides no others services, has no other interests, ties or links other than delivery, promotion, support and defence of independent advocacy.
    • Must be able to evidence and demonstrate its structural, financial, and psychological independence from others.
    • Follows the agenda of the people supported, regardless of the views, interest and agendas of others.
  • Upholding Rights:
    • Stands up to injustice, discrimination and disempowerment.
    • Enables people to have greater control and influence.
    • Challenges discrimination and promotes equality and human rights.
    • Recognises power imbalances, or the barriers people face, and takes steps to address these.

What are the Types of Independent Advocacy?

Below are some of the most common types of independent advocacy services:

  • Individual Advocacy:
    • Professional, or issue-based advocacy, involves a professional advocate providing expert and specialist knowledge to help resolve a particular issue. The relationship is normally short-term.
    • Citizen advocacy is a person-based service that usually, but not always, takes place on a longer-term basis The advocate is usually an unpaid volunteer, who builds a trusting relationship with a person, and supports them to resolve any issues they have. This ensures that individuals have an active life within the community.
  • Non-Instructed Advocacy:
    • Can be provided by professional or citizen advocates. It happens when a person cannot tell an advocate what they want. This may be because the person has complex needs, and/or limited communication, which prevent them from clearly stating their wished and desires.
    • The advocate observes the person, tries different ways of communicating with them, and will speak to significant others in the person’s life.
  • Group Advocacy:
    • Group advocacy, or collective self-advocacy, is designed to allow people with the same concerns, issues or experiences to provide support to each other and highlight issues or campaign for improvement. The groups are run by members, for members, and are supported by a development worker.
  • Peer Advocacy:
    • This is provided by an individual who has gone through similar experiences. This arrangement can help to reassure the person, who is be advocated for, that the individual providing the advocacy understands them and their situation.
  • Children’s Rights Services:
    • The nature of Children’s Right Services is very similar to professional advocacy. It aims to ensure that a child’s rights are fully taken into account when decisions are made about them. Generally, this service is focussed on providing support for children and young people who have been in the care system, or who are subject to a child protection case conference.
    • The service supports the child or young person at reviews and other complex meetings, helping them to express their views and wishes in all decisions affecting them. This advocacy allows children and young people to contribute to statutory child’s plans.

What are the Adult Eligibility Criteria?

Within Fife, Scotland, the eligibility criteria for adults and older people includes:

  • People in Fife aged 16 or over;
  • People affected by disability;
  • People affected by chronic illness;
  • People with dementia or mental disorder (including mental illness, learning disability or personality disorder); and
  • Individuals who are unable to safeguard their own well-being, rights, care, or other interests.

What are the Professional Advocacy Services for Available for Adults and Older People in Fife?

  • Fife Women’s Aid (FWA):
  • Fife Forum:
    • A voluntary sector advice and information agency.
    • Established in 1990 as the Fife Elderly Forum Executive.
    • Provides advocacy for people over 65 who are in community hospitals, residential homes, or nursing care homes.
    • http://www.fifeforum.org.uk.
  • Fife Carers Centre:
  • Kindred:
  • Circles Network:
  • Fife Advocacy Forum (FVA):
    • Provides professional advocacy to children subject to compulsory measures under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003.
    • http://www.fifeadvocacyforum.org.uk.

What are the Citizen Advocacy Services for Adults and Older People in Fife?

  • Citizen advocates are unpaid and independent of service providers and families.
  • They are members of the local community.
  • Fife has three (3) citizen advocacy organisations who provide support on a longer term basis for people aged 16-65.
  • Shorter term advocacy is also available when someone would benefit from a citizen advocacy relationship to resolve a specific issue.

Organisations include:

What are the Group/Peer Advocacy Services for Adults and Older People in Fife?

  • People First (Scotland) work to support people with learning difficulties to have more choice and control over their lives.
  • Peer advocacy refers to one-to-one support provided by advocates with a similar disability or experience to a person using the service(s).
  • Trained and supported volunteers often provide peer advocacy as part of a coordinated project.
  • They facilitate seventeen (17) local advocacy groups in Fife, including two (2) women only groups and two (2) men only groups.
  • People First workers will support individuals to find a suitable local group for their needs.
  • http://peoplefirstscotland.org/.

What are the Advocacy Services for Children and Young People in Fife?

  • Who Cares? Scotland:
    • Provides professional advocacy for young people up to the age of 25.
    • These young people will either have been, or will be, resident in Fife’s residential homes.
    • http://www.whocaresscotland.org/.
  • Kindred:
  • Fife Young Carers:
  • Circles Network:
    • Provides professional advocacy to children subject to compulsory measures under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) Act 2003.
    • http://circlesnetwork.org.uk/.
  • Believe in Children (Barnardo’s):
    • Provides a children’s rights and advocacy service to children and young people in secure or purchased residential placements.
    • Children looked after at home, in kinship care, foster care, or children and young people who are subject to multi-agency statutory child’s plans can also access advocacy through Barnardo’s.
    • http://www.barnardos.org.uk/fifeservices/.

Further Reading

  • Fife Advocacy Strategy 2018-2021.
  • Carers Strategy for Fife 2018-2021.
  • Advocacy in Fife (Information Leaflet).
  • Fife Adult Support and Protection (webpage).
  • Fife Health and Social Care Strategic Plan 2016-2019.

On This Day … 18 May [2022]

People (Deaths)

  • 2019 – Austin Eubanks, American addiction recovery advocate, survivor of the Columbine shooting (b. 1981).

Austin Eubanks

Stephen Austin Eubanks (07 October 1981 to 18 May 2019) was an American motivational speaker on addiction and recovery.

He was a survivor of the Columbine High School massacre, in which his best friend, 17-year-old Corey DePooter, was killed and Eubanks was shot in his hand and knee. Eubanks struggled with opioid addiction after the shooting. Eubanks was the chief operations officer for the Foundry Treatment Centre.

Columbine Shooting

The Columbine High School massacre was a school shooting and attempted bombing that occurred on 20 April 1999, at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado, United States.

The perpetrators, twelfth grade (senior) students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, murdered 12 students and one teacher. Ten students were killed in the school library, where the pair subsequently committed suicide. Twenty-one additional people were injured by gunshots, and gunfire was also exchanged with the police. Another three people were injured trying to escape. At the time, it was the deadliest high school shooting in US history. The shooting has inspired dozens of copycat killings, including many deadlier shootings across the world. The word “Columbine” has become a byword for school shootings.

In addition to the shootings, Harris and Klebold planted several homemade bombs in the school, although they failed to detonate. Two bombs were set up as diversions at another location away from the school, one of which (partially) detonated. The motive remains unclear, but they had planned for around a year and hoped to massacre the most victims in US history, which at the time meant exceeding the death toll of the Oklahoma City bombing.

The police were slow to enter the school and were heavily criticized for not intervening during the shooting. The incident resulted in the introduction of the Immediate Action Rapid Deployment tactic, which is used in active shooter situations. Columbine also resulted in an increased emphasis on school security with zero tolerance policies. Debates and moral panic were sparked over guns and gun control laws, high school cliques, subcultures (e.g. goths), outcasts, and school bullying, as well as teenage use of pharmaceutical antidepressants, the Internet and violence in video games and movies.

Many impromptu memorials were created after the massacre, including victims Rachel Scott’s car and John Tomlin’s truck. Fifteen crosses for the victims and shooters were also erected on top of a hill in Clement Park. The crosses for Harris and Klebold were removed later following controversy. The Columbine Memorial began planning as a permanent memorial in June 1999 and opened to the public on 21 September 2007.

What is a Support Group?


In a support group, members provide each other with various types of help, usually nonprofessional and nonmaterial, for a particular shared, usually burdensome, characteristic. Members with the same issues can come together for sharing coping strategies, to feel more empowered and for a sense of community.

Help may take the form of providing and evaluating relevant information, relating personal experiences, listening to and accepting others’ experiences, providing sympathetic understanding and establishing social networks.

A support group may also work to inform the public or engage in advocacy.

Refer to Peer Support and Peer Support Specialist.


Formal support groups may appear to be a modern phenomenon, but they supplement traditional fraternal organisations such as Freemasonry in some respects, and may build on certain supportive functions (formerly) carried out in (extended) families.

Other types of groups formed to support causes, including causes outside of themselves, are more often called advocacy groups, interest groups, lobby groups, pressure groups or promotional groups. Trade unions and many environmental groups, for example, are interest groups.

The term support group in this article refers to peer-to-peer support.

Maintaining Contact

Support groups maintain interpersonal contact among their members in a variety of ways. Traditionally, groups meet in person in sizes that allow conversational interaction. Support groups also maintain contact through printed newsletters, telephone chains, internet forums, and mailing lists. Some support groups are exclusively online (see below).

Membership in some support groups is formally controlled, with admission requirements and membership fees. Other groups are “open” and allow anyone to attend an advertised meeting, for example, or to participate in an online forum.

Management by Peers or Professionals

A self-help support group is fully organised and managed by its members, who are commonly volunteers and have personal experience in the subject of the group’s focus. These groups may also be referred to as fellowships, peer support groups, lay organisations, mutual help groups, or mutual aid self-help groups. Most common are 12-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and self-help groups for mental health.

Professionally operated support groups are facilitated by professionals who most often do not share the problem of the members, such as social workers, psychologists, or members of the clergy. The facilitator controls discussions and provides other managerial service. Such professionally operated groups are often found in institutional settings, including hospitals, drug-treatment centres and correctional facilities. These types of support group may run for a specified period of time, and an attendance fee is sometimes charged.

Types of Support Group

In the case of a disease, an identity or a pre-disposition, for example, a support group will provide information, act as a clearing-house for experiences, and may serve as a public relations voice for sufferers, other members, and their families. Groups for high IQ or LGBTQIA+ individuals, for example, differ in their inclusivity, but both connect people on the basis of identity or pre-disposition.

For more temporary concerns, such as bereavement or episodic medical conditions, a support group may veer more towards helping those involved to overcome or push through their condition/experience.

Some support groups and conditions for which such groups may be formed are:

  • Addiction.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous.
  • Anxiety disorders.
  • Bereavement.
  • Cancer.
  • Diabetes.
  • Debtors Anonymous.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Eating disorders.
  • Gamblers Anonymous.
  • Grief.
  • Infertility.
  • Mental Health.
  • Sexual abuse survivors.
  • Stuttering.
  • Suicide prevention.

Online Support Groups

Since at least 1982, the Internet has provided a venue for support groups. Discussing online self-help support groups as the precursor to e-therapy, Martha Ainsworth notes that “the enduring success of these groups has firmly established the potential of computer-mediated communication to enable discussion of sensitive personal issues.”

In one study of the effectiveness of online support groups among patients with head and neck cancer, longer participation in online support groups were found to result in a better health-related quality of life.

Appropriate Groups Still Difficult to Find

A researcher from University College London says the lack of qualitative directories, and the fact that many support groups are not listed by search engines can make finding an appropriate group difficult. Even so, he does say that the medical community needs “to understand the use of personal experiences rather than an evidence-based approach… these groups also impact on how individuals use information. They can help people learn how to find and use information: for example, users swap Web sites and discuss Web sites.”

It is not difficult to find an online support group, but it is hard to find a good one. In the article What to Look for in Quality Online Support Groups, John M. Grohol gives tips for evaluating online groups and states: “In good online support groups, members stick around long after they’ve received the support they were seeking. They stay because they want to give others what they themselves found in the group. Psychologists call this high group cohesion, and it is the pinnacle of group achievement.”

Benefits and Pitfalls

Several studies have shown the importance of the Internet in providing social support, particularly to groups with chronic health problems. Especially in cases of uncommon ailments, a sense of community and understanding in spite of great geographical distances can be important, in addition to sharing of knowledge.

Online support groups, online communities for those affected by a common problem, give mutual support and provide information, two often inseparable features. They are, according to Henry Potts of University College London, “an overlooked resource for patients.” Many studies have looked at the content of messages, while what matters is the effect that participation in the group has on the individual. Potts complains that research on these groups has lagged behind, particularly on the groups which are set up by the people with the problems, rather than by researchers and healthcare professionals. User-defined groups can share the sort of practical knowledge that healthcare professionals can overlook, and they also impact on how individuals find, interpret and use information.

There are many benefits to online support groups that have been found through research studies. Although online support group users are not required to be anonymous, a study conducted by Baym (2010) finds that anonymity is beneficial to those who are lonely or anxious. This does not pertain to some people seeking support groups, because not all are lonely and/or anxious, but for those who are, online support groups are a great outlet where one can feel comfortable honestly expressing themselves because the other users do not know who they are.

A study was conducted by Walther and Boyd (2000) and they found a common trend to why people find online support groups appealing. First, the social distance between members online reduced embarrassment and they appreciated the greater range of expertise offered in the larger online social network. Next, they found that anonymity increased one’s confidence in providing support to others and decreased embarrassment. The users of the social support websites were more comfortable being able to reread and edit their comments and discussion forum entries before sending them, and they have access to the website any time during the day. Each of these characteristics of online support groups are not offered when going to an in-person support group.

In a study conducted by Gunther Eysenbach, John Powell, Marina Englesakis, Carlos Rizo, and Anita Stern (2004), the researchers found it difficult to draw conclusions on the effectiveness of online peer-to-peer support groups. In online support groups, people must have the desire to support and help each other, and many times participants go on the sites in order to get help themselves or are limited to a certain subgroup.

An additional benefit to online support groups is that participation is asynchronous. This means that it is not necessary for all participants to be logged into the forum simultaneously in order to communicate. An experience or question can be posted and others can answer questions or comment on posts whenever they are logged in and have an appropriate response. This characteristic allows for participation and mass communication without having to worry about time constraints. Additionally, there are 24-hour chat rooms and spaces for focused conversation at all times of the day or night. This allows users to get the support they need whenever they need it, while remaining comfortable and, if they so wish, anonymous.

Mental Health

Although there has been relatively little research on the effectiveness of online support groups in mental health, there is some evidence that online support groups can be beneficial. Large randomised controlled trials have both found positive effects and failed to find positive effects.

What is Advocacy?


Advocacy is an activity by an individual or group that aims to influence decisions within political, economic, and social institutions. Advocacy includes activities and publications to influence public policy, laws and budgets by using facts, their relationships, the media, and messaging to educate government officials and the public.

Advocacy can include many activities that a person or organisation undertakes including media campaigns, public speaking, commissioning and publishing research. Lobbying (often by lobby groups) is a form of advocacy where a direct approach is made to legislators on a specific issue or specific piece of legislation.

Research has started to address how advocacy groups in the United States and Canada are using social media to facilitate civic engagement and collective action.

An advocate is someone who provides advocacy support to people who need it.

Read in conjunction with A Brief Overview of Advocacy in Fife (Scotland).

Forms of Advocacy

There are several forms of advocacy, each representing a different approach in a way to initiate changes in the society. One of the most popular forms is social justice advocacy.

The initial definition does not encompass the notions of power relations, people’s participation and a vision of a just society as promoted by social justice advocates. For them, advocacy represents the series of actions taken and issues highlighted to change the “what is” into a “what should be”, considering that this “what should be” is a more decent and a more just society. Those actions, which vary with the political, economic and social environment in which they are conducted, have several points in common. They:

  • Question the way policy is administered.
  • Participate in the agenda-setting as they raise significant issues.
  • Target political systems “because those systems are not responding to people’s needs”.
  • Are inclusive and engaging.
  • Propose policy solutions.
  • Open up space for public argumentation.

Other forms of advocacy include:

  • Budget advocacy:
    • Another aspect of advocacy that ensures proactive engagement of Civil Society Organisations with the government budget to make the government more accountable to the people and promote transparency.
    • Budget advocacy also enables citizens and social action groups to compel the government to be more alert to the needs and aspirations of people in general and the deprived sections of the community.
  • Bureaucratic advocacy:
    • People considered “experts” have more chance to succeed at presenting their issues to decision-makers.
    • They use bureaucratic advocacy to influence the agenda, although at a slower pace.
  • Express versus issue advocacy:
    • These two types of advocacy when grouped together usually refers to a debate in the United States whether a group is expressly making their desire known that voters should cast ballots in a particular way, or whether a group has a long-term issue that isn’t campaign and election season specific.
  • Health advocacy:
    • Supports and promotes patients’ health care rights as well as enhance community health and policy initiatives that focus on the availability, safety and quality of care.
  • Ideological advocacy:
    • In this approach, groups fight, sometimes during protests, to advance their ideas in the decision-making circles.
  • Interest-group advocacy:
    • Lobbying is the main tool used by interest groups doing mass advocacy.
    • It is a form of action that does not always succeed at influencing political decision-makers as it requires resources and organisation to be effective.
  • Legislative advocacy:
    • The “reliance on the state or federal legislative process” as part of a strategy to create change.
  • Mass advocacy:
    • Any type of action taken by large groups (petitions, demonstrations, etc.).
  • Media advocacy:
    • The strategic use of the mass media as a resource to advance a social or public policy initiative.
    • In Canada, for example, the Manitoba Public Insurance campaigns illustrate how media advocacy was used to fight alcohol and tobacco-related health issues.
    • One can also consider the role of health advocacy and the media in the enactment of municipal smoking bylaws in Canada between 1970 and 1995.
  • Special education advocacy:
    • Advocacy with a specific focus on the educational rights of students with disabilities.

Different contexts in which advocacy is used:

  • In a legal/law context:
    • An advocate is the title of a specific person who is authorised/appointed in some way to speak on behalf of a person in a legal process.
  • In a political context:
    • An advocacy group is an organised collection of people who seek to influence political decisions and policy, without seeking election to public office.
  • In a social care context:
    • Both terms (and more specific ones such as “independent advocacy”) are used in the UK in the context of a network of interconnected organisations and projects which seek to benefit people who are in difficulty (primarily in the context of disability and mental health).
  • In the context of inclusion:
    • Citizen Advocacy organisations (or programmes) seek to cause benefit by reconnecting people who have become isolated.
    • Their practice was defined in two key documents: CAPE, and Learning from Citizen Advocacy Programmes.

Advocacy Tactics

Margaret E. Keck and Kathryn Sikkink have observed four types of advocacy tactics:

  • Information politics: quickly and credibly generating politically usable information and moving it to where it will have the most impact.
  • Symbolic politics: calling upon symbols, actions, or stories that make sense of a situation for an audience that is frequently far away.
  • Leverage politics: calling upon powerful actors to affect a situation where weaker members of a network are unlikely to have influence.
  • Accountability politics: efforts to hold powerful actors to their previously stated policies or principles.

These tactics have been also observed within advocacy organisations outside the USA.

Aims of Advocacy

Advocacy in all its forms seeks to ensure that people, particularly those who are most vulnerable in society, are able to:

  • Have their voice heard on issues that are important to them.
  • Defend and safeguard their rights.
  • Have their views and wishes genuinely considered when decisions are being made about their lives.
  • Leading a change towards a greater social justice and equality.

Advocacy is a process of supporting and enabling people to:

  • Express their views and concerns.
  • Access information and services.
  • Defend and promote their rights and responsibilities.
  • Explore choices and options.

Use of the Internet

Groups involved in advocacy work have been using the Internet to accomplish organisational goals. It has been argued that the Internet helps to increase the speed, reach and effectiveness of advocacy-related communication as well as mobilisation efforts, suggesting that social media are beneficial to the advocacy community.

Other Examples

Advocacy activities may include conducting an exit poll or the filing of an amicus brief.


People advocate for a large number and variety of topics. Some of these are clear-cut social issues that are universally agreed to be problematic and worth solving, such as human trafficking. Others – such as abortion – are much more divisive and inspire strongly-held opinions on both sides. There may never be a consensus on this latter type of issues, but intense advocacy is likely to remain. In the United States, any issue of widespread debate and deeply-divided opinion can be referred to as a social issue. The Library of Congress has assembled an extensive list of social issues in the United States, ranging from vast ones like abortion to same-sex marriage to smaller ones like hacking and academic cheating.

Topics that appear to involve advancing a certain positive ideal are often known as causes. A particular cause may be very expansive in nature – for instance, increasing liberty or fixing a broken political system. For instance in 2008, US presidential candidate Barack Obama utilised such a meaning when he said, “this was the moment when we tore down barriers that have divided us for too long; when we rallied people of all parties and ages to a common cause.” Change.org and Causes are two popular websites that allow people to organise around a common cause.

Topics upon which there is universal agreement that they need to be solved include, for example, human trafficking, poverty, water and sanitation as a human right.

“Social issues” as referred to in the United States also include topics (also known as “causes”) intended by their advocates to advance certain ideals (such as equality) include: civil rights, LGBT rights, women’s rights, environmentalism, and veganism.

Transnational Advocacy

Advocates and advocacy groups represent a wide range of categories and support several issues as listed on worldadvocacy.com. The Advocacy Institute, a US-based global organisation, is dedicated to strengthening the capacity of political, social, and economic justice advocates to influence and change public policy.

The phenomenon of globalisation draws a special attention to advocacy beyond countries’ borders. The core existence of networks such as World Advocacy or the Advocacy Institute demonstrates the increasing importance of transnational advocacy and international advocacy. Transnational advocacy networks are more likely to emerge around issues where external influence is necessary to ease the communication between internal groups and their own government. Groups of advocates willing to further their mission also tend to promote networks and to meet with their internal counterparts to exchange ideas.

Transnational advocacy is increasingly playing a role in advocacy for migrants rights, and migrant advocacy organisations have strategically called upon governments and international organisations for leverage.

Transnational advocates spend time with local interest groups in order to better understand their views and wishes.