Resolving an advocacy issue or getting your needs met usually comes down to knowing what you’re entitled to and how to ask for it. Using resources and contacts you can find on this website or through other charities, you or a loved one can speak up knowing that what you’re saying is right, how to show this, and where to go if it’s rejected.
Community or general advocacy is free support to get your voice heard in most situations that you might come across. Most local areas have at least one service that is funded to offer this.
There are a few different situations in which your local authority is required by a law to provide you with a free specialist advocate. You can find which services offer these in your area by looking online, or by getting in touch with your local authority.
Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA)
If you are a ‘qualifying patient’ you have a legal right to be provided with an advocate who can help you with information, practical support, attending meetings, and getting your views on your treatment heard. This can be particularly helpful around mental health tribunals.
A ‘qualifying patient’ is usually someone who has been or might be detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 (otherwise known as being sectioned). There are also some other particular situations that qualify.
NHS Complaints Advocate
If you are making a complaint about the service you received through the NHS, you are entitled to support around understanding your rights and communicating with the appropriate regulators and practitioners.
Independent Advocate for Social Care
If you are going through an assessment or care planning under the Care Act 2014 (Care Act processes), you are entitled to advocacy support with understanding the process and making decisions if:
– You have ‘substantial difficulty’ with engaging with the process
– You don’t already have someone in your life who can help you with this
If you are receiving joint support for mental health and social care (Continuing Health Care or ‘Joint Package’ users), you may be entitled to independent support with understanding and making choices about your care even without meeting the criteria above. This was put in place because of how complex joint support is.
Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA) and Relevant Persons Representative (RPR)
If you have been deemed to ‘lack mental capacity’ around certain decisions, you can be supported by an RPR or an IMCA. To lack mental capacity means to not be able to make an informed decision on your own – this might be in general or around something specific, like money.
An RPR is there to represent your choices and make decisions on your behalf when you aren’t able to. There is some quite strict criteria around who can do this, because it’s so important that they be willing and able to both understand what you want and voice it.
An IMCA has a smaller window of responsibility, and mainly comes in if you or your RPR think you are not being treated fairly or that you actually do have capacity to make your own choices.
Independent Domestic or Sexual Violence Advocate (IDVA/ISVA)
Although IDVAs and ISVAs are not technically statutory, an organisation will be funded to provide this in your local area.
If you are the victim or survivor of domestic or sexual violence, you can receive support from an advocate or advisor. They help you with information, practical support, attending meetings, and keeping you and your loved ones safe. This can be particularly helpful when navigating the courts system.
They don’t provide counselling or other professional emotional support, but they can let you know which organisation is funded to offer this in your area.