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What is it?

Advocacy is a process of supporting and enabling vulnerable people to:

  • Access information and services
  • Explore choices and options
  • Have their voice heard on issues that are important to them
  • Express their views and concerns, and have their views and wishes genuinely considered when decisions are being made about their lives
  • Defend and promote their rights and responsibilities

What is an advocate?

An advocate is someone who provides advocacy support when you need it. An advocate might help you access information you need or go with you to meetings or interviews, in a supportive role. You may want your advocate to write letters on your behalf, or speak for you in situations where you don’t feel able to speak for yourself.

Advocates can be someone you know, a friend or family member or someone completely independent such as a professional advocate.

Independent advocates

People you know such as friends, family, health or social care staff, can all be supportive and helpful - but it may be difficult for them if you want to do something they disagree with.

Local authority and health staff have a ‘duty of care’ to the people they work with, which means they can’t support you in doing things that they think will be bad for you.

But an advocate is independent and will represent your wishes without judging you or giving you their personal opinion.

Independent advocacy services are provided by organisations that are independent from the local authority. If you think you need an advocate contact Hillingdon Social Care Direct for more information.

Types of advocacy

Advocacy under the Care Act 2014

The Care Act 2014 introduced new statutory advocacy from April 2015 for people who have substantial difficulties in being involved and do not have anyone else to help them to understand and engage in:

  • assessment of their needs
  • care planning
  • care reviews
  • safeguarding

If you require advocacy services the council will appoint an independent advocate to support you.

Independent Advocate (City and Guilds: Level 3 Diploma)

This is the preferred Governmental national standard for independent advocacy.

The specialist advocacy provided by an independent advocate is concerned with working from a person centered perspective. The person is always in control of the advocacy process. This means that an independent advocate:

  • Recognises the person as having the most specialised knowledge of their life, views, wishes and feelings
  • Helps the person explore their options, and the potential outcomes of particular course of action, without bias
  • Will provide information to enable the person to make an informed decision
  • Will work towards an acceptable outcome for the person

Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy (IMCA)

IMCA is a statutory advocacy introduced by the Mental Capacity Act 2005, which gives people who lack capacity, and have nobody else to support them, a right to receive support in relation to important decisions about their care.

An IMCA must be used for people who lack capacity whenever:

  • an NHS is proposing serious medical treatment
  • an NHS or local authority is proposing to arrange or change accommodation in hospital or a care home and the person will stay in hospital longer than 28 days, or they will stay in the care home for more than eight weeks

An IMCA may be instructed to support someone who lacks capacity to make decisions concerning adult protection cases.

Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA)

IMHA is a statutory advocacy introduced in 2009. Anyone who is detained in a secure mental health setting is entitled to access support from an IMHA advocate.

Others who can access an IMHA service are those who have been provisionally discharged from hospital, those on supervised community treatment orders, or voluntary patients who are considering serious medical treatment as a result of a mental health condition.

NHS complaints advocacy

The NHS Complaints Advocacy Service is:

  • Free
  • Independent
  • Confidential

It can help you to make a complaint about any aspect of  your National Health Service (NHS) treatment if you do not feel comfortable making complaints by yourself or need a support at any point during the process. This includes treatment in a private hospital or care home that is funded by the NHS.

Contact VoiceAbility for more information.

However If a complaint is about private healthcare, or a private care or nursing home, and you paid for treatment or used medical insurance,  you will need to contact the healthcare provider to find out what their complaints procedures.

Last reviewed: 19/06/2018

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