DDWA Advocacy Service – Snapshot 3

Advocacy Snapshot #3 dated May 2018

DDWA Advocacy Service Snapshot

Snapshot 3
4 May 2018

by Maxine Drake, Service Negotiator / Advocacy

Introduction

This third instalment from DDWA’s Maxine Drake looks at:

  • what Advocates do;
  • NDIS as a Resource; and
  • Advocates as a Third Party.


What do Advocates do?

Advocates argue for people to receive what they are eligible for, or argue the case for eligibility.

Advocacy takes place most often in the Human Services sector which is where programs or facilities for meeting basic health, welfare, and other needs of a society or group operate.

Human Services share out some of the community’s resources to people (citizens) based on:

  • their need; and
  • what is generally agreed to be eligibility,

for those resources.  In Australia we share some of our collective resources with people who are unemployed so that they can have some funds to live on.

NDIS as a Resource

The new NDIS is a system for distributing resources to people with disabilities to provide for disability-related daily needs to be met.  This can be likened to the way that schools distribute education to children as a resource so that they can learn and be equipped for life with skills and knowledge.

The unemployed, people with disabilities and children are all citizens that we agree are eligible for resources and services funded by the community.  However, resources and services are provided based on Policy (written rules) and this is where disputes can arise.

Sometimes negotiation is enough to settle an issue.  Sometimes activism is needed to change the rules.

The NDIS resulted from activism that created new laws and policies, built on generations of individual and family struggles to have citizens with disabilities recognised as entitled to support for their lives. Now Eligibility and Entitlements are a new policy battleground.

Advocates as Independent Third Parties

We do need laws and policies that define what people should receive.  However, it is human workers who make the decisions closer to the person, in offices and services across the country.   Advocates perform a vital role in stepping in to situations of dispute around decisions relating to eligibility and resources.

Advocates create a negotiation triangle in order to interrupt the power dynamic between the one who needs the resources and the one who can decide to give or withhold those resources.  This triangulation can provide a circuit breaker between two parties and perhaps bring in a new perspective or enable people to shift positions or compromise.

Even though the advocate is likely to be invited to the negotiation by the person seeking the service, they are still an Independent Third Party because they should have no material interest in the outcome.

Advocates are important to the processes of fair negotiations because by being witnesses in such situations, advocates help to hold systems to account for how they exercise their power and interpret their own policies.  Advocates also help people to argue their own case and hopefully feel heard and understood.  Advocates can then work outside negotiation settings to change the policies and interpretations that are causing hardship for people in our community.

Maxine Drake

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