One of the greatest challenges faced by Sage and other direct providers of support and advocacy services is that advocacy, as a practice, is not formally recognised in law. Because of this there is no obligation on health, social care, legal and financial service providers or family members to engage with independent advocates. That so many already do is a credit to their respect for the right of individuals who may be vulnerable to have their voice heard and their will and preference acted on. In the context of legislative developments related to deprivation of liberty and safeguarding it is possible that formal recognition of independent advocacy will be achieved within the near future but this is by no means guaranteed. The formal recognition of independent advocacy would be an important step forward but, while absolutely necessary, it is not sufficient. If achieved it will raise further questions such as:
The establishment of a National Council for Advocacy, combined with the enactment and implementation of the Safeguarding Adults Bill (2017), would be significant milestones in addressing these questions. A further important consideration is that the approach of commissioning is increasingly being used by government to decide how services to the public are procured. The development of such an approach in the advocacy sector would require levels of strategic understanding and operational capability which are currently not well developed within the sector.