Local authorities have a responsibility in some circumstances to provide independent advocacy.
Advocates help people who are unable or have substantial difficulty saying what they want to say, and to help them be involved in discussions and decisions about their care and support.
This means having someone to speak on their behalf, so that they are supported and involved as much as possible.
What is advocacy?
Advocacy is about:
- Making sure people have the information they need to make the right choices for them.
- Supporting people to speak up and be heard.
- Helping people to get the services and support they need and are entitled to.
- Helping people to play a full part in their communities
The amount of advocacy support required will vary between different people but the service should, where possible, encourage people to say what is important to them and make their own decisions and choices.
Advocacy should help people to do more for themselves and make them less dependent on other people where possible.
What should an advocate do?
An advocate is a person who represents and works with a person who may need support and encouragement to exercise their rights, to help make informed choices and to have a voice. This includes:
- Assisting a person to understand the assessment, care and support planning, review and safeguarding processes.
- Assisting a person to communicate their views, wishes and feelings.
- Assisting the individual to understand all information relevant to the decision they are required to make.
- Assisting the person to make decisions about their care and support arrangements.
- Assisting the person to understand their legal rights.
- Assisting a person to challenge a decision or process.
Who can act as an independent advocate?
An independent advocate must be suitably experienced and appropriately trained, but most importantly have the ability to work independently of the local authority, and/or its partners.
They must not be someone who is paid to provide care or treatment for the person or an organisation that is paid by the council to carry out assessments, care and support plans or reviews.
Can a friend or relative be an advocate?
If there is an appropriate individual the person trusts to help them say what is important to them and who knows their wishes they can choose for them to be their advocate.
That person cannot be someone they pay to provide their care or treatment, or who supports them professionally such as their social worker.
Types of Advocacy Services
Care Act Advocacy
For adults with social care needs, Staffordshire County Council Council and our partners must arrange an independent advocate to support and represent the person if two conditions are met:
- That if an independent advocate were not provided then they would have substantial difficulty in being fully involved in these processes.
- There is no appropriate individual available to support and represent their wishes that is not paid, or professionally involved in providing care or treatment to the person or their carer.
We must decide if the person would have substantial difficulty being involved in the care and support processes.
There are 4 areas where 'substantial difficulty' in being involved might be found, these are:
- Being able to understand the relevant information.
- Being able to retain information.
- Being able to use or weigh up the information.
- Being able to communicate their views, wishes and feelings.
For people aged 16 and over, who have been formally assessed to be lacking mental capacity and have no appropriate friends or family to consult, an independent mental capacity advocate must be instructed when:
- A decision must be made on their behalf about providing, withdrawing or withholding of serious medical treatment.
- A decision must be made on their behalf about long term accommodation in hospital, residential nursing or other supported care environment.
They may be instructed when:
- It is proposed to take protective measures under adult protection procedures (over 18). It is unlikely a referral to the IMCA service will be required when an individual is already working with a Care Act Advocate.
- The responsible body are reviewing the accommodation arrangements for a person who lacks capacity and there are no friends and family that it would be appropriate to consult.
An independent mental health advocate should be provided for people who qualify as follows:
- People being detained under a section of the Mental Health Act or are on leave of absence from hospital. This does not include emergency and short term detentions such as those made under Sections 4, 5(2), 5(4), 135 or 136.
- People on conditional discharge and restricted patients.
- Those subject to guardianship.
- Those on a supervised community treatment.
- Those being considered for a section 57 treatment.
- People under 18 and being considered for a section 58A treatment like electro-convulsive therapy.
They should help people to:
- Understand their rights and the rights others have in relation to them.
- Find information, including information about any treatment and the legal authority for providing that treatment.
- Have a voice in decisions affecting them by supporting them to speak out, representing their views, choices and opinions.
NHS Complaints Advocacy Service (NHSCAS)
The service gives practical support and information to people who want to complain about an NHS service. It also supports people who want to make a complaint on someone else’s behalf.
The service aims to help people understand what their options are, and to support them through the NHS complaints process to ensure they get the best possible resolution.
You decide the level of support you need and an advocate will work with you to ensure you get the best possible outcome to your complaint.
NYAS (National Youth Advocacy Services) provide advocacy for the following groups of children and young people:
- Looked after children
- Children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)
- Children subject to a child protection plan
- Children with a learning disability and difficulties
- Children affected by emotional wellbeing and/ or mental health issues
This may sometimes include children and young people living or placed outside the Staffordshire County Council boundaries.
The service is available to children and young people from the above groups between the ages of 5 to 18 years, and up to the age of 25 for those with SEND, or for care leavers.
Where can I go for independent advocacy in Staffordshire?
Currently we have a number of advocates who can provide this service for free to eligible individuals.
You can contact them, or you can ask someone to contact them for you by:
Phone: 0300 456 2370 (charged at local rate)
Post: POhWER, The Hub, 17 Eastgate Street, Stafford, ST16 2LZ
They provide an NHS complaints advocacy service.
Phone: 0800 161 5600
SMS: text “Healthwatch” and your name and number to 60006
Web: Healthwatch Staffordshire
Post: Healthwatch Staffordshire NHS Com-plaints Advocacy, Suite 2, Opus House, Priestly Court, Staffordshire Technology Park, Stafford, ST18 0LQ
This is Staffordshire’s provider for people who require an Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA), or an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA).
You can contact them, or you can ask someone to contact them for you:
For people who need an IMHA
Phone: 01785 246709
Post: ASIST, Winton House, Stoke Road, Stoke on Trent. ST4 2RW
For people who need an IMCA
Phone: 01782 845584
Post: ASIST, IMHA, Block 7, St. George's Hospital, Corporation Street, Stafford, ST16 3SR
You can contact them, or you can ask someone to contact them for you by:
Phone: 0800 808 1001
Web: NYAS secure referral portal
Web: Secure online chat and advice room for children and young people
You can also download the NYAS app.
The providers above are free of charge to eligible people.
There are a number alternative and specialist advocacy services across the county. These may be more suited to your individual needs and personal circumstances.