It can often be challenging to access services and communicate your needs, and mental health issues can make this even harder An advocate is someone who supports you to do this in a way that is right for you. Advocacy can be provided by someone you know (eg a friend or a family member) or it can be provided by a professional advocate through an advocacy service. This information is about professional advocacy.
The role of a professional advocate includes arguing your case when you need them to, and making sure the correct procedures are followed by your health and social care services.
Advocates are independent, which means they are there to represent your wishes without giving their personal opinion and without representing the views of the NHS or the local authority. This can be particularly useful in situations where people need help getting their voices heard or being assertive. An advocate will not make decisions on your behalf or solve your problems for you, however an advocate can support you to:
- access information and services
- contact relevant people (or contact them on your behalf)
- make informed decisions about your life
- explore choices and options
- defend and promote your rights and responsibilities
- speak out about issues that matter to you
- attend meetings or appointments with you
Independent Mental Health Advocacy
In some cases, there is a legal duty to provide an advocate and you should be told that you are entitled to this service and referred to it by the person who is in charge of your care. You are eligible if you are:
- Detained under sections 2 or 3 of the Mental Health Act (even if you are on section 17 leave from hospital).
- A conditionally discharged restricted patient.
- Subject to guardianship (section 7).
- Subject to a section 17A supervised Community Treatment Order (CTO).
- An informal patient being considered for section 57 treatment (psychosurgery).
- An informal patient aged under 18 and being considered for section 58a treatment (ECT).
You are not eligible if you are subject to sections 4, 5(2), 5(4), 135 and 136.
(Source: Seap Advocacy www.seap.org.uk).
This form of advocacy is provided by advocates who are specially trained to work within the Mental Health Act. The service is delivered by an Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA) or an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA). They support people who cannot make or understand decisions by stating their views and wishes on their behalf and securing their rights.
The service aims to help particularly vulnerable people who do not have family or friends to consult about those decisions. The advocates are independent people who work with and support people who lack capacity, and represent their views to those who are working out their best interests. The decision maker has a duty to take into account the information given by the IMHA or IMCA.