Types of advocacy
By Jane Stanfield, Associate Practitioner
When someone is unable to speak up for themselves and assert their rights – because of lacking mental capacity or some other vulnerability – it is important that there is someone who can do it for them or assist them to do it for themselves. Often it will be a friend or family member who supports a person in this way.
However, sometimes there is no one who can do this informal advocacy, either because the person does not have family or friends, or because those who would be able to do it are in dispute with health or social care practitioners or other members of the family, and it is therefore difficult for them to be impartial.
The Mental Capacity Act, The Mental Health Act and the Care Act all provide for paid, trained advocates to be available if a vulnerable person needs their help. The person does not have to pay; the service is free to those who are eligible for it.
Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA)
An IMCA can support someone who has been assessed as lacking mental capacity to make a certain decision such as whether to start or change serious medical treatment or where someone will live. They find out as much as possible about the views of the person. They can meet the person privately and see their health and care records. After considering all relevant information they may write a report to help decision-makers reach decisions in the person’s best interests, or may attend a best interest meeting.
Carers can get the support of an IMCA if they are making an application to the Court of Protection as a relevant person’s representative under DoLS.
Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA)
An IMHA can help someone detained under the Mental Health Act to understand their rights under the Mental Health Act and how to appeal a detention. They can help prepare for meetings and give support in meetings, and talk with staff to raise queries and represent views.
Care Act Advocate
The Care Act states that local authorities should involve people in decisions about their care, and that if someone cannot be involved without support, and there is no “appropriate individual” to support them, then they have a right to an advocate. Carers are included in having a right to a Care Act Advocate if they have “substantial difficulty” in being involved in their own assessment.
Each local authority will have its own arrangements for providing advocacy, but it must be independent of the decision-makers. An example of an independent organisation which provides advocacy services to many local authority areas is POhWER.
For more information you can contact your local authority to find out who provides their advocacy service.