An activity by an individual or group that aims to influence decisions within political, economic, and social institutions. Advocacy includes activities aimed at influencing public policy, laws and budgets by using facts, the media, and messaging to educate organisations, government and the public. Advocacy can include many activities that a person or organization undertakes including media campaigns, public speaking, commissioning and publishing research.

The Clare Advocacy Platform
Advocates in BOCSI Clare are represented by the Clare Advocacy Platform (CAP), with representatives from eighteen active advocacy groups around the county.

The group meets on a regular basis to discuss current issues for individuals throughout the organisation. They also hold quarterly consultation sessions with the Clare Senior Management Team to represent and advocate for the views of their members, and influence the model of service provision in the county. Minutes from these sessions are circulated to individuals supported throughout the service.

The Platform also has a research arm – the Clare Inclusive Research Group – who undertake their own research projects and who are affiliated to the national forum known as the Inclusive Research Network (IRN).

Most recently their study “Doctors and Us” was launched at the Castletroy Hotel Limerick and reviewed by the internationally respected Disability Academic Professor Roy McConkey.

All the IRN research studies can be viewed at ​​​Inclusive Research Network (IRN)

Independent Advocacy
An external service of Independant Advocacy is also offered to anyone looking for support in any area of their lives through the National Advocacy Service represented in Clare by Helen Collins.

The CAP see training as a key strategy in facilitating the growth and development of advocacy throughout the county.

Three areas of training have been recently identified:

Advocacy for people supported by the service
This has been undertaken in two areas recently Kilrush and Ennis where VTR level 3 training has been delivered. Staff Supporters working with individuals on this course have reported significant development in their own understanding. Some participants have taken more active roles in the work of the service, participating in interviewing and advocacy training for staff programmes.

Advocacy Awareness Training for Staff
Following on from an understanding throughout the Clare service that advocacy is at the heart of the work support staff are doing with individuals, a service wide programme of “Advocacy Awareness” is being put in place for all staff, delivered by joint teams of Advocates and Support Staff.

Training for supporters 
Group Work with Self Advocates is being devised. Advocacy Coordinator Rob Hopkins, CAP chairperson Claire Nagle and CAP PRO Ger Minogue have been working with Inclusion Ireland (Sligo branch) and Advocate Groups from Galway and Roscommon on an eight session manual for group work. A program for advocate team facilitators is planned in the second half of 2020.

Highlights for 2019
The CAP self-advocates presented their film “Walking in My Shoes” at the BOC National Advocacy Conference in Waterford in 2019 to great acclaim.

Recent developments in the area of advocacy include:

• The forming of a Staff Advocacy Strategy Group
• Increasing the size of the Clare Advocacy Platform Committee to include representatives from around the County
• Collaboration with the Social Work Team on a Safeguarding Video
• A proposed collaboration with the Positive Behaviour Support Team to devise and produce dramas for a positive behaviour programme
• Working towards the BOC National Advocacy Conference in October 2020 in Roscommon entitled “We Can Be Heroes”