Unlocking the Power of Independent Advocacy: Understanding its Purpose, Principles, and Importance of Access and Involvement

Sometimes, individuals receiving care may not have the knowledge, understanding, or confidence to ensure that their opinions are heard when decisions are being made about their care. To safeguard their rights, independent advocacy services can be utilized.

What is Advocacy?

An advocate is someone who stands up for an individual and ensures that their viewpoints and desires are taken into account. They should have the best interests of the individual in mind and must not have a previous relationship with any healthcare service providers, as it could cause a conflict of interest.

An advocate's responsibility is to define the needs, wants, and preferences of an individual by communicating with them and identifying what matters to them. They will then ensure that these opinions are expressed when the individual is unable to do so and keep them informed of what is happening. Additionally, they will assist individuals in understanding their options when making decisions.

Advocates should not make choices on behalf of individuals or influence them with their own beliefs.

Statutory Advocacy

The Care Act 2014 mandates local authorities to provide a care and support advocate for an individual in particular circumstances such as when they are being assessed for services, when their care plan is being reviewed, or when there is a safeguarding concern. To qualify for an advocate, an individual must struggle to be fully involved in the process without one and should not have someone else like a friend or relative who can undertake that role. Support workers who work with the individual may not assume the role of an advocate (although they may advocate for individuals in certain situations, such as upholding their rights).

'Substantial difficulty' is understood as being unable to understand or remember information given, being unable to evaluate the information given, or being unable to express their thoughts.

Other statutory advocacy services include Independent Mental Health Advocates (IMHAs), who support individuals receiving treatment under the Mental Health Act 1983, and Independent Mental Capacity Advocates (IMCAs), who support individuals lacking the capacity to make their own choices under the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

Other Advocacy

In addition to statutory advocacy services recommended by the local authority and health organizations, individuals may want to engage an independent advocate to support them in other areas of their lives. Advocacy services can be either paid or unpaid, and they can represent individuals or groups. Self-advocacy is when an individual acquires the knowledge and support to speak up for themselves.

Accessing Advocacy Services

Statutory advocacy services will be offered when specific requirements are met:

  • - Local authority referral for care and support advocates, care representatives, or self-referral
  • - IMHA if detained under the mental health act or subject to a community treatment order
  • - IMCA referral by a healthcare professional
  • Other independent advocacy services can be accessed whenever they may be necessary. Reasons for appointing an independent advocate may include:
  • - Assisting with the review of a care plan
  • - Risk of an individual's rights not being upheld
  • - Request from an individual or their family
  • - Difficulty speaking up for oneself
  • It is crucial to comprehend that advocates should only be employed when there is a genuine need for them - advocates should not be used if an individual is capable of advocating for themselves.

If you believe that an individual would benefit from advocacy services, you should speak to your manager. You should also document your concerns and follow your organization's agreed ways of working. Then, you can approach organizations that provide these services.

Numerous entities offer advocacy services, with some presenting comprehensive support while others catering to specific demographics (such as those with learning impairments) or circumstances (such as housing). The municipal government may possess a roster of advocacy providers, and the likes of MENCAP and MIND charities can also furnish guidance and assistance.

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