Advocating access to justice: Facilitating or gatekeeping?




advocacy, access to justice, social work, democratic aspects, best practice, abogacía, acceso a la justicia, trabajo social, aspectos democráticos, mejores prácticas


Advocacy is one of the central means for supporting access to justice. The social work profession has advocacy as one of its main courses of action. This discusses the components in actions that are considered as good practice for facilitating access to justice in its democratic aspects. More explicitly social workers advocacy for promoting the worth and dignity of human beings in society. Four different ideals in social work are presented, self-help, treatment, philanthropy and bureaucracy. Thereafter, cases presented as best practice from European social workers are used for pointing out the central components described for good advocacy work. These are communication, inclusion and flexibility. Taken together, the aspects all go back to having respect for those in need of advocacy. In advocating for access to justice, it is important that the advocates are actively aware of their own role in a way that their efforts facilitate access to justice. 

La abogacía es uno de los medios fundamentales para apoyar el acceso a la justicia. La profesión de trabajo social emplea la abogacía como una de sus principales vías de actuación. Este artículo analiza los componentes de las acciones que se consideran buenas prácticas para facilitar el acceso a la justicia en sus aspectos democráticos. Más explícitamente, aborda la defensa por parte de los trabajadores sociales de la promoción del valor y la dignidad de los seres humanos en la sociedad. Se presentan cuatro ideales diferentes del trabajo social: autoayuda, tratamiento, filantropía y burocracia. A continuación, se utilizan casos presentados por trabajadores sociales europeos como buenas prácticas, a fin de destacar los componentes descritos como centrales para una buena labor de defensa. Estos son: comunicación, inclusión y flexibilidad. En conjunto, todos estos aspectos se basan en el respeto a las personas que necesitan apoyo. Al abogar por el acceso a la justicia, es importante que los defensores sean activamente conscientes de su propio papel, de manera que sus esfuerzos faciliten dicho acceso.

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Author Biography

Kerstin Svensson, School of Social Work, Lund University

School of Social Work, Lund University. Email address:


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06-02-2023 — Updated on 28-07-2023

How to Cite

Svensson, K. (2023) “Advocating access to justice: Facilitating or gatekeeping?”, Oñati Socio-Legal Series, 13(4), pp. 1239–1257. doi: 10.35295/osls.iisl/0000-0000-0000-1356.