Local authorities will need to expand access to independent advocacy services by April 2015 when the Care Act comes into force. Under the Act, local authorities will have to provide independent advocacy when someone has ‘substantial difficulty’ being involved in the process of care, and does not have an appropriate individual to support them.
A new guide on good practice in commissioning advocacy is available from the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE). “Care Act: Commissioning independent advocacy”, is launched at the National Children and Adults Services conference in Manchester.
The guide recommends that local authority commissioners should:
- anticipate likely demand now
- look at the arrangements for existing related services – such as independent mental capacity advocacy, independent mental health advocacy and NHS complaints advocacy – and consider building on them to become compliant with the Care Act by April 2015
- establish flexible contracts to ensure that access to advocacy can increase or reduce in response to changing needs, and continually monitor and review
- co-produce each step with local people who use services and engage constructively with existing and potential providers of advocacy services.
SCIE’s Chief Executive, Tony Hunter, says:
Many local authorities already provide good access to independent advocacy and are ready to meet increases in demand from next April. SCIE has learned from these areas and developed this guide which is based on good commissioning practice, and a commitment to coproducing work – including commissioning practice – with people who use services and carers. This is just Version One. We will continue to learn from the sector and are keen to hear back from commissioners and advocates to see how we can improve this guide. SCIE consultants can also work with local authorities to put the guide into practice.
Jon Rouse, Director General, Social Care, Local Government and Care Partnerships, Department of Health, says:
Local authorities should not underestimate how vital it is to have effective, independent advocacy services in place. It is a critical element of the Care Act. People must be supported to understand and be fully involved in decisions about their care – from assessment through to planning and delivering care. SCIE’s new guide takes the essential elements of good practice in commissioning, and demonstrates what this means for commissioning independent advocacy.
David Pearson, President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, says:
Commissioners recognise the importance of getting this right; both the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. It’s vitally important that people with care and support needs are able to participate as much as possible in decisions about how they will live their lives. This resource is there for commissioners to learn from and add to.
June Sadd, a user-consultant from SCIE’s Co-Production Network, says:
My work in the field of mental health advocacy shows that advocacy can make a difference. I worked with stakeholders looking at independent mental health advocacy (IMHA) provision. We found that service users felt that mental health professionals took more notice of their views in decision-making about their care and treatment, when an IMHA was involved. Service users also felt that one of the positive outcomes was the supportive relationship with the IMHA; even when the decisions didn’t go their way.
The guide is, on purpose, a ‘beta’ version because we’re seeking comments on the content and format of the guide. Then SCIE will build an interactive tool in January, taking into account of the views they receive. To make the advocacy site as useful as possible, SCIE would like to know:
- Are there commissioning activities that have been missed out?
- Does the guide provide useful background, including the duties of the Act?
- Do you have any examples of interesting practice from your area you’d like to share?
- What format would you like to see the information in?
Views can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org Final comments are required by Friday 21 November 2014 please