Referring clients to advocacy services
Referral is the process of directing a client to a service that is better able to meet their needs, that is, needs that you or your organisation are unable to meet. An area in which clients may require extra support is advocacy.
Advocacy services may be required when a client has approached an organisation in relation to a concern of theirs and has not had a satisfactory outcome.
Martha has been denied a Centrelink benefit. You have been supporting Martha to deal directly with Centrelink but neither of you is having any success. You recommend to the client that she seeks advocacy services that specialise in advice and advocacy in relation to disputes with Centrelink, such as the Welfare Rights Centre.
There is a range of advocacy services throughout the state. Advocacy services also include community legal services, legal aid and private solicitors. Some groups serve a specific portion of the population, such as women’s legal services; others focus on a specific subject matter, such as the tenants’ union. Others focus on a specific style of dispute management, such as mediation. An example would be the Dispute Resolution Centre.
Depending on the client and their situation, the following services and/or advocates can be contacted for support:
- people who protect client rights
- Enduring Power of Attorney
- Adult Guardian
- youth advocacy
- legal advocacy – Legal Aid
- therapeutic communication
- Public Trustee
- Justices of Peace
- Community visitors.
It is important that you become aware of the range of advocacy services available in your local area.
When considering referral, you will need to consider your organisation’s procedures for referring clients to other agencies or individual service providers. You also need to be aware of the other agency’s referral procedures and guidelines for maintaining confidentiality.
Involving clients in the process
Clients have a right to be involved in assessing the suitability of services to which they are referred, just as they have a right to be involved in identifying their needs, setting their goals and participating in decision-making on issues impacting on their lives.
Clients may like to know more about the service to which you would like to refer them, so they can decide on the type and amount of information to be disclosed about them to the service. They may like to see information on the organisation’s role, responsibilities and expectations of service users, as well as the way this service will fit into their support network.
Active participation by clients in decision-making regarding referral to other services may influence how comfortable clients will feel about accessing this service.
Logbook activity – Client referral
Locate your agency's client referral procedure/s. If possible, locate a list of other services that your agency regularly refers clients to. This should be a fairly concise list, i.e. a few pages listing service name, contact details and a brief description of the service provided. Do not attempt to include a large folder of service information.
Add these documents to your Logbook.