Advocates for social care assessments and appeals

This information applies to England and Wales.

An advocate is someone who supports you to explain what you want. This can be helpful when having a social care needs assessment or appeal.

Under the Care Act 2014, you have the right to take someone with you to a social care assessment or appeal if you want to. They can be a professional advocate or someone you know. They are there to support your rights.

If you want an advocate at your social care assessment or appeal, let your local authority know. They should book your assessment at a time that suits you and your advocate.

Getting a social care needs assessment

Challenging or complaining about your social care

What an advocate can help with

An advocate should be able to:

  • help you to say how things affect you and speak up for what you need
  • provide emotional support
  • help you to understand what an assessor is saying

An advocate can be:

  • a person you already know and trust, like a family member or friend
  • a person from a local charity or advocacy organisation
  • a statutory advocate provided by your local authority, if you are eligible

Statutory advocate

A statutory advocate means the person is legally entitled to an advocate. This normally is because of a mental health condition or learning disability. But you could be eligible if you find it hard to say what you need, understand information or make choices. Ask your local authority.

Family member or friend as an advocate

A family member or friend is not trained as an advocate. They might not have knowledge about the social care process. They can talk on your behalf and be there for support. This could be helpful if you struggle to remember things.

If you have a complicated case, try to get a trained advocate.

Warning If your needs are urgent

If your needs are urgent, your local authority does not have to wait until your assessment or appeal to either:

  • start giving you support at home
  • or change the support you are receiving

This would be because you've stopped being able to meet your needs. For example, if you've stopped being able to get out of bed and live alone.

Contact your local authority. Say it's about adult social care. Describe your situation and why you need urgent help. You can still do this even if you do not have a social worker.

Contact your local authority (GOV.UK)

Finding an advocate

Local charities and advocacy organisations may be able to provide emotional support for disabled people. Advocacy services are usually free.

Advocacy (Disability Rights UK)

These include:

If your social care assessment is for a mental health condition, you could try advocacy services from:

If you cannot find an advocate, ask your local authority or council.

Warning Start looking for an advocate

It can take time to find an advocate. Start looking for an advocate as soon as possible. Some services have a limited capacity and cannot support everyone.

Citizens Advice has a list of advocacy services in your area. Local charities and organisations might have more availability.

Find your local Citizens Advice

An advocate from your local authority

The Care Act 2014 says that your local authority must make sure that you have an advocate if you find it hard to do any of the following in an assessment or appeal:

  • understand information
  • remember information
  • use information to choose between options
  • say what you want, think and feel

You can ask for an advocate even if:

  • you have not had one before
  • you need one now because of something that’s happened recently
  • you need one sometimes, but not all of the time

If you need an advocate, your local authority must make sure that you have one. They may ask if you have a family or friend who can be your advocate.

You do not have to accept anyone your local authority suggests. If you do not want them, your local authority has to find someone else.

The law says that your advocate cannot be your paid carer. This does not include someone receiving Carer’s Allowance.

Asking your local authority for an advocate

If you are eligible and do not already have an advocate, your local authority must provide one.

You can ask your local authority for an advocate at any time.

If your social worker knows that you need an advocate, this should happen before your assessment.

If you do not have a social worker, you can still ask your local authority for an advocate.

Write to your local authority saying why you need someone to support you. Keep a copy of your request. If you prefer to do this over the phone, you should still follow up with an email, so they have your request in writing.

Find your local authority (GOV.UK)

You could email something like:

“I find it hard to remember and understand information. Because of this, I always take someone with me to my doctor’s appointments. I think I am going to struggle in this assessment. Please can I have an advocate? This is a legal requirement.”

If you cannot get an advocate for your assessment or appeal date

Ask to have your assessment or appeal on a different day. Your assessment or appeal should be at a time that suits you and your advocate.

If your local authority refuses, write an email to explain why you need an assessment with an advocate.

For example:

“I need help to understand what is being said. Without an advocate I could get confused and will be unable to say what support I need. An advocate will allow me to access the assessment and get the support I am entitled to.”

If they refuse again, you could either:

  • say you are going to complain and see if that helps
  • ask them to refer you for a statutory advocate

If these things do not help, make a formal complaint.

Writing a formal complaint about your social care needs assessment

You may need legal advice if:

  • you want to know what your legal rights are
  • you want to know how the social care system should work
  • your formal complaint was not resolved

Challenging your social care needs assessment

A specialist statutory advocate should be able to answer questions about your rights or social care. But they are not lawyers and cannot take a legal case for you.

Finding free or affordable legal help (Citizens Advice)

Last reviewed by Scope on: 07/11/2023

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