'Advocacy' supports an individual to understand their rights, express their views and play a full role in decisions made about them.
We provide access to several forms of 'Advocacy' from Self Advocacy (supporting you to speak up for yourself) through to NHS Complaints Advocacy (which supports people to raise issues and make complaints about health related services).
Care Act Advocacy
Advocacy support for anyone living in the borough with ‘Substantial Difficulty’ that prevents them from being involved in certain care and support processes, and who does not have someone that can support their involvement. This also applies to Carers.
Care and Support processes that we provide advocacy support for include:
- needs assessment
- carer’s assessment
- the preparation and review of care and support or a support plan
- safeguarding enquiry
- a safeguarding adult review
- an appeal against a local authority decision under Part 1 of the Care Act (subject to further consultation)
A person will be assessed as having ‘substantial difficulty’ if they are unable to be fully involved in one or more of the above processes due to difficulty in:
- understanding relevant information
- retaining that information
- using or weighing that information as part of the process of being involved
- communicating their views, wishes or feelings (whether by talking, using sign language or any other means)
In such cases we may make arrangements for an Independent advocate who will guide you throughout the process.
For those people who access advocacy under the Care Act it may become clear that the individual requires support from an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA). Then under the local arrangements the same advocate, depending on capacity, may continue to provide support under the IMCA arrangements.
Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy (IMCA)
IMCA gives people who lack capacity a right to receive advocacy support in relation to important decisions about their care.
The role of an IMCA is to:
- Represent and support the person in relation to their best interests
- Find out the views / feelings / beliefs of the person
- Make sure that the person can participate in the decision-making process
- Obtain and evaluate information
- Look at other courses of action
- Consider seeking a further medical opinion if necessary
- Check that Mental Capacity Act principles and best interests process are being followed
- Prepare a report, which the decision maker has a legal duty to consider
- Challenge the decision (including about capacity) if necessary, informally first and through Court of Protection as a last resort
IMCA advocates do not make decisions on behalf of the person they are representing. This is the responsibility of the ‘best interest’s decision maker’.
Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA)
Anyone who is detained in a secure Mental Health setting, under the Mental Health Act, is entitled to access support from an Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA).
Others can also access an IMHA service:
- those who have been provisionally discharged from hospital
- those who are on supervised Community Treatment Orders
- voluntary patients who are considering serious medical treatment as a result of a Mental Health condition
Independent Mental Health Advocates are specialists trained to work within the framework of the Act. IMHAs are there to make sure that people’s rights are understood and respected. Also, that their views and concerns are taken into account in the decision making process.
They may also support patients in a range of other ways to make sure they are involved in decisions that are made about their care and treatment. For example:
- Care planning process
- Mental Health Review Tribunals
- Negotiate appropriate aftercare
- Access other support or services
- Raising concerns about their experiences/care
IMHA advocates do not make decisions on behalf of the person they are representing. This is the responsibility of the ‘best interest’s decision maker’ or health professional responsible for the care of the patient.
An IMHA's Rights
Under the Mental Health Act, an IMHA has specific rights for the purpose of providing support to a patient.
They have a right to:
- Visit and interview a patient in private
- Visit and interview any person professionally involved with a patient’s treatment
- Request and inspect any records which relate to the patient
Where the patient does not have capacity to consent to an IMHA having access to their records, the record holder should:
- Start from the presumption it is likely to be in the patient's best interest to be represented by an IMHA
- Ask the IMHA to explain what information they think is relevant to the support they are providing the patient and why they think it is appropriate for them to be able to see that information
NHS Complaints Advocacy
This is a free independent service to help people make a complaint about a National Health Service (NHS). The NHS work hard to make sure that people are satisfied with their services and receive good quality treatment but things can and do sometimes go wrong.
You may want to complain about a service you have received from the NHS, or you might want to complain on someone else’s behalf. Our NHS Complaints Advocacy provider - VoiceAbility will help you understand what your options are and how to get the best resolution for you.
Unlike other forms of advocacy people can contact VoiceAbility directly.
Peer Advocacy / Peer Support
This involves people with life experience of a condition, disability or health problem supporting each other. We work with several organisations that provide Peer Advocacy and Support on a formal or informal basis, including Disability in Action.
Self-advocacy encourages people to speak up for themselves and to represent their own interests. Alternatively, Citizen advocacy is where an advocate works with a person with a learning disability to help them to speak up for what they want.
All Advocates operate under strict confidentiality rules. All our advocacy providers are independent of both the Local Authority, NHS and Mental Health trusts.
Please note: There is no direct or self-referral to our providers of Care Act, IMHA or IMCA advocacy. Referrals must be made either by the Access to Social Care team, social worker or a member of the Mental Health Trust. You can, however, contact our NHS Complaints Advocacy provider directly.
There is no charge for provision of an Advocate as long as you meet the specific eligibility criteria for the particular type of Advocacy you need.
If you decline the support of an appointed independent advocate and wish to appoint your own advocate from an alternative source or provider, then we will not be liable to fund this support. If you are not considered as eligible by us, you can access your own legal support through advocacy organisations to explore self-funded support.
You can find out more about Advocacy on Dudley Community Information Directory.
This is a free, confidential and independent service.
Telephone: 0300 303 1660