Advocacy is about taking action to help people say what they want, secure their rights, represent their interests and obtain services they need. Advocates and advocacy schemes work in partnership with the people they support and take their side. Advocacy promotes social inclusion, equality and social justice. (Advocacy Charter 2002, Action for Advocacy)
By law local authorities must provide advocacy for people that qualify under the Mental Health Act 2007 and the Mental Capacity Act 2005.
Independent Mental Health Advocates (IMHA) provide support to people that are subject to the Mental Health Act 2007, for example a detention, guardianship order or conditional discharge. IMHAs can help clients to understand their rights and provide support during meetings to be heard. Where people are unable to retain information long enough to make a decision, an IMHA will act as a representative on their behalf.
Independent Mental Capacity Advocates (IMCA) will represent a person who lacks capacity to ensure decisions being proposed are in the persons best interest. Often these clients have nobody to represent them or no one who is appropriate to consult. Issues IMCAs provide support with must qualify under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 eg providing, withholding or stopping serious medical treatment, moving a person into long term care in hospital or care home, moving the person to a different hospital or care home, care reviews or adult protection cases.
Support under the Care Act for carers and the people they care for in care needs assessments and safeguarding. Introducing continuity of support from the same advocate when issues change between health complaints, mental health advocacy, and other forms of statutory advocacy support.
Support from people who themselves have experience of using particular services such as mental health or learning disability services. It can involve people speaking up for those who cannot do so themselves and may link with group advocacy, whereby people come together to share their experiences to work on a common goal.
This is the ideal form of advocacy for people who are able to provide instruction. Self Advocacy is when people are able to speak out for themselves, express their own needs and represent their own interests. Advocates will work with clients to build their skills in advocacy so that they are able to speak out for themselves independently and may no longer need an advocate.
A partnership between two people (Advocate and Client), usually short term, providing support with specific issues. Partnerships can end when there is no involvement on an issue and restart if issues later arise. Advocates aim to develop self advocacy skills in clients so that they can self advocate.
A one to one partnership between two people. The Citizen Advocate forms a long term relationship with their partner and takes a personal interest in ensuring that their partners interests are effectively represented. The relationship is based on trust, commitment and loyalty. There is an element of emotional support and friendship as well as a social element, which may involve introducing the partner to new experiences and/or activities.
Non instructed advocacy is designed to work with people who are unable to use a recognised system of communication. NIA uses different approaches to work in the best interest of the client. These are centred around a persons rights being upheld eg human rights, understanding the individual and their environment by speaking to family, friends, carers and observing them in their environment. Non Instructed Advocates work in a person centred way and will support/represent the client in decisions using the information they gather over time.
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