On Tuesday 24th of May we were joined by a host of speakers from across the country to discuss conditional discharges and how Independent Mental Health Advocates and practitioners can support individuals who are subject to this section.
Perspectives were shared by legal experts, approved clinicians, the Ministry of Justice, Independent Mental Health Advocates (IMHA), family, friends, and most importantly, those with lived experience. We also launched new resources including information for conditionally discharged patients in plain English, guidance for family members and guidance for IMHA’s to support conditionally discharged patients. There is also a patient’s rights easy read in development.
Speakers included 39 Essex Chambers Barrister Neil Allen, Associate Director of Nursing Christine Hutchinson, Mike Nolan the Head of Team 2 in the Mental Health Casework Section of the Ministry of Justice, and Roger Banks who is the National Clinical Director of Learning Disability and Autism at NHS England.
You can find below the resources mentioned during the event, and we welcome you to share these widely through your networks to ensure all who need this information have access to it:
We stand together as Advocacy, Information & Advice Charities calling on the Prime Minister and our government to protect the Human Rights Act
On May 18th 2022, we wrote to the Prime Minister to raise our concerns about the proposed scrapping of the Human Rights Act, and the proposed introduction of the Bill of Rights.
Advocacy Focus has collaborated with over 40 Advocacy, Information and Advice Charities to bring attention to the important rights and protections the Human Rights Act offers our collective beneficiaries to live as equal people and to be treated with dignity.
Our letter to the Prime Minister can be read below in full. The letter was organised by the national advocacy Charity POhWER. To have your Charity or Organisation added to this letter digitally, be added to the mailing list for future campaign activity or for other queries relating to this letter please contact POhWER Chief Executive at firstname.lastname@example.org or Leanne Hignett – email@example.com at Advocacy Focus who can support you with your query.
The UK has and continues to be a leader in the development and contributor of human rights law over the last hundred years. Since joining the European Convention on Human Rights (the Convention) we have been bound to comply with its provisions. The Human Rights Act brought rights home and created an important obligation for public authorities to comply with ECHR.
The Human Rights Act commits public authorities to comply with the European Convention of Human Rights in their policies, procedures and decision making. As advocates we see the positive impact Human Rights Act has had on the people we support through our charitable work.
Without the Human Rights Act, the modern advocacy profession might not exist with the same powerful impact or independent scrutiny. The Human Rights Act is at the epi-centre of a framework of rights and entitlements complemented by the Equality Act, Care Act, Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards, Liberty Protection Safeguards, Mental Health Act, Mental Capacity Act, related legislation in the devolved nations and Safeguarding.
Thanks to the Human Rights Act as advocates, we are able to independently challenge public authorities that support us in our everyday lives.
We help people to live as equal people through the cases we manage to have their human rights upheld in public services.
Advocacy is one of the many ways in which people can be supported and empowered to uphold their rights and entitlements, be provided with choices and options, and safeguarded from harm and abuse. An advocate can help a person to:
speak up for themselves or give their views
understand the process they are going through, their rights and what choices are available to them
be part of an important decision which is being made about them
prepare for and take part in meetings and tribunals
raise queries or concerns
access information in the format which is most suitable
access services that can support them
Advocates can also provide information and signpost people to other helpful services. Our intervention often means people do not need to access justice through the courts or legal pathway as our intervention empowers people and protects their human rights.
The current laws protect everyone in the UK no matter who they are or what their own situation may be. The proposed reforms would significantly reduce the legal responsibilities the Government currently has towards us and diminish mechanisms for our collective Charity beneficiaries to hold public services accountable and to be treated as equal people.
The proposed Bill of Rights would offer opt-outs to public authorities to pick and choose whose rights they supported and if/when they supported those rights. Many of the people we support are socially excluded, vulnerable and/or marginalised.
To focus this consultation on just a few minor legal technicalities and procedural nuances is diminishing the wider role the HRA 1998 plays to support people in everyday life and enable them to live as dignified people. Without HRA 1998, there would be no clear rulebook to govern expectations of conduct when dealing with public services such as Statutory Bodies, Local Authority, Prisons, NHS, DWP, Immigration, Housing and Coroner Service.
We believe the changes proposed are detrimental to our beneficiaries and would remove independent scrutiny of public services and the important role of advocacy.
We are calling on a wider study and equality impact assessment to understand the realities on the wider UK population, requesting for a meeting to share case studies and evidence on how HRA benefits the people we support every day through public authority independent scrutiny and mitigates often wider escalations in the legal process. Scrapping HRA would be detrimental to our beneficiaries, public authorities and wreak havoc with framework of other intersecting rights laws and codes of practices.
Our society remains unfair and unequal – the millions of people who sought support through our Charities should serve as significant reminder that the Human Rights Act 1998 and other protection laws are not currently being necessarily always upheld by local and central government bodies. Independent scrutiny, challenge, and freedom for people to empower themselves is a fundamental part of our society and democracy.
Helen Moulinos, Chief Executive, POhWER
Jo Moore, CEO, Accommodation Concern
Peter Walsh, Chief Executive, Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA)
Mr Abe Ncube, Advocacy 1st, Community Connex
Leanne Hignett, Service Delivery Director, Advocacy Focus
Elssa Keegan, CEO, Advocacy Matters
Judith Davey, Chief Executive Officer, The Advocacy Project
Sabrina Solomon, Head of Service Delivery, The Advocacy Project
Ian Maxey, Deputy Head of Service Delivery, The Advocacy Project
Natasha Fox, CEO, Advocacy West Wales-Eiriolaeth Gorllewin Cymru
Philip Bramson, Chief Executive, Advonet
Ewan Roberts, Centre Manager, Asylum Link Merseyside
Sr Ruth Miller, Volunteer, Asylum Link Merseyside
Theresa Mawson, Volunteer, Asylum Link Merseyside
Kevin Keech, Volunteer, Asylum Link Merseyside
Bridie Sharkey, Trustee, Asylum Link Merseyside
Kacey Jones, Volunteer, Asylum Link Merseyside
Peter Simm, Volunteer, Asylum Link Merseyside
Ged Edwards, Volunteer, Asylum Link Merseyside
Gareth Hankinson, Staff, Asylum Link Merseyside
Steve Hawkins, Trustee, Asylum Link Merseyside
Mike Storry, Volunteer, Asylum Link Merseyside
Dr Paula Grey, Trustee, Asylum Link Merseyside
Shahzad Wilson Mukerjee, Volunteer, Asylum Link Merseyside
Hilary Hopkin, Volunteer, Asylum Link Merseyside
Jannatul Chowdhury, Staff, Asylum Link Merseyside
Chris Vick, Service Director, Advocacy Services for North East Wales (ASNEW)
Emily Barratt, Deputy Director, Brighton and Hove Speak Out
Chris Mounsher, Advocate, Brighton and Hove Speak Out
Emma Lopez, Engagement officer, Brighton and Hove Speak Out
Jeanette Goodman, Advocacy Team Leader, Brighton and Hove Speak Out
Sarah Coombes, Volunteer Coordinator, Brighton and Hove Speak Out
Sanchita Hosali, CEO, British Institute of Human Rights
Philip Kerr, Carers Federation
Angus Claydon, Director of Operations, The Care Forum
Kevin Peltonen-Messenger, CEO, The Care Forum
Michèle Stokes, Chief Executive Officer, Carers in Hertfordshire
Roma Mills, Policy and Engagement Manager, Carers in Hertfordshire
Colin Ling CEO, Chinese Wellbeing
Di Burbidge Service Development Manager, Chinese Wellbeing
Jack Davey, Advice Service Lead, CHAS Bristol
Alice Tibbert, Director, CHAS Bristol
Suzi Henderson, CEO, Cloverleaf Advocacy
Cherry Pedler, Manager, Community Support Network South London (CSN)
Garrick Prayogg, Project Manager, Cultural Diversity Network
Maria Dolly Galvis Zapata, Chief Executive Officer, The Elfrida Society
Ali F. Jabeen, Operations Manager, Specialist Advocacy Services for Parents with Learning Disabilities and/or Difficulties, The Elfrida Society
Deborah Kober Specialist Advocates for Adults and Parents with Learning Disabilities and/or Learning Difficulties, The Elfrida Society
Janay Crooks, Specialist Advocates for Adults and Parents with Learning Disabilities and/or Learning Difficulties, The Elfrida Society
Nikki Chivers, Group Facilitator for Adults with Learning Disabilities, The Elfrida Society
Lynne Stafford, Chief Executive, Gaddum
Ben Whalley, Head of Operations, Gaddum
Caroline Ridley CEO, Impact Initiatives
Louise Peim Operations and Contracts Manager, Impact Initiatives
Sam Grant, Head of Policy and Campaigns, Liberty
Katy Porter, CEO, Manor Gardens Welfare Trust
Saiqa Sahotra Community Advocate, Mary Seacole House
Alex Coombes Specialist Advocate, Mary Seacole House
Ben Allen Community Advocate, Mary Seacole House
Miatta Mac-Boimah Outreach Worker, Mary Seacole House
Simon Torkington Advocacy and Training Manager, Mary Seacole House
Dr Melvin Bradley, CEO, MhIST
Gillian Unsworth, CEO, Mind in Brighton and Hove
Sharn Tomlinson, Chief Executive Officer, Mind in Mid Herts
Michelle Kabia, CEO, Mind in Tower Hamlets and Newham
Fiona Scaife, Operational Director for Advocacy Services, Mind in Tower Hamlets and Newham
Shelu Miah, Operations Director, Mind in Tower Hamlets and Newham
Rita Hirani, CEO MindOut.
Mandy Bigden-Slack, Advocacy Service Manager, MindOut
Teresa Jennings, Chief Executive, n-compass
Rita Waters, Group Chief Executive, NYAS (National Youth Advocacy Service)
Advocacy Focus are excited to welcome Anna Reddy from Leap Health to our series of free webinars focusing on why we should talk about mental health in the workplace!
With over 18 years of success in the pharmaceutical industry, Anna worked with a broad spectrum of Health Care Professionals, and in a wide range of therapy areas. With experience in the fitness industry and as a qualified Nutritionist who is fascinated by how lifestyle can have such a profound effect on the prevention & management of our health, Anna has the specialist knowledge, qualifications and expertise in health, wellbeing and disease prevention that unlocks lifestyle solutions to mental and physical health.
In this free webinar Carolina de Almeida, from Advocacy Focus, will discuss some shocking research findings to help you understand the prevalence of and negative impact that mental illness can have on individuals and businesses alike. Together with Anna, from Leap Health, we will offer you practical solutions to implement in your own personal and professional life to aid your wellbeing, as well as invite your business to join us on a journey to a happier and healthier workplace.
Join us on Wednesday 4th of May at 1pm for an hour of learning and positive action!
Advocacy Focus are proud to have signed the ‘Charter for Employer Positive About Mental Health’
Established in 2004, Mindful Employer is a UK wide initiative run by Devon Partnership NHS Trust.
Providing employers with easier access to professional Workplace Mental Health training, information and support, the initiative aims to help empower employers to take a lead in supporting the mental wellbeing of their staff.
By signing the ‘Charter for Employer Positive About Mental Health’ Advocacy Focus have made a public statement of our desire to support the mental health of our staff across the organisation.
Advocacy Focus is now supporting the Peer and Self-Advocacy service in Trafford. This service is for people with a learning disability and autism, it is independent from health and social care services, and is free to join.
The aims of the group are to…
Organise peer and self-advocacy meetings in the Trafford Borough;
Work together to improve services and be involved in the creation of new services in the local area;
Raise awareness & discuss topical issues about learning disabilities and autism, within the local and professional communities of Trafford;
Make change at senior level within Trafford council;
Ensure people’s voices are heard and acted upon.
First event is Friday 4th Feb 10-12noon. Click the image below to join the event
New statistics have shown that 49% of small businesses and 73% of larger businesses have been impacted by poor employee mental health over the last year.
Surveys by Lloyds Bank and digital wellbeing provider LifeWorks, have shown that mental health has declined throughout the pandemic, with employees reporting that they feel overworked, under pressure and are struggling with poor work/life balance.
Invest in Mental Health Training for your workplace and give back to your community at the same time!…
How? When you choose Advocacy Focus as your workplace training provider, we invest 100% of your profits back into the community. When you book your mental health workplace training or mental health first aid training with us, your money supports people in the community with complex care needs and mental ill health. And as a charity with over 20 years of supporting people with mental ill health, we’re the experts when it comes to helping you to support your workforce.
Over the last 18 months, the health and social care has faced huge challenges. Constant changes, goalposts moving, new legislation in the Coronavirus Act and much of the sector mobilised or redeployed to deliver the COVID19 response. Organisations rewriting workplace policies, training our teams in how to don and doff their PPE and navigating the physical and psychological move to remote working. Technological challenges, digital exclusion and ever-growing waiting lists across the board began to bite at overstretched services. The last 18 months has taken its toll on everyone, when people needed services the most, services closed their doors or were difficult to access and navigate.
For us, every single one of our services was affected by the pandemic and the demand for support increased tenfold at a time when we couldn’t physically get into our communities. Rights and freedoms were restricted, vital care and support was cancelled or postponed, and news broke of unlawful practices, most notably the unlawful implementation of blanket DNACPR decisions. People needed us now more than ever before.
The world shut down, Advocates turned up.
Even though our team faced their own personal challenges, they continued to show up and put their heart and souls into delivering critical services. They came up with creative ways to reach and support those who needed us, they continued business as usual, despite the challenges they faced. But because not much is known about advocacy outside of the health and social care sector, in my eyes, they ultimately did not get the credit they deserved. They were the ironically silent heroes of the pandemic, upholding rights, fighting for freedoms and helping people access the care and treatment they needed.
Indeed, throughout the outbreak, little credit has been given to the amazing Advocates across the country. Not much was said about how organisations like ours continued to support our teams, how we ensured their rights were upheld, how we ensured they had the support they needed, how we ensured their safety when out and about seeing people face to face during a pandemic, and how we ensured they stayed mentally well. The world shut down, Advocates turned up.
Last year’s Valuing Voices report detailed the results of a nationwide survey of 450 Advocates in the UK. Advocacy organisations, including ourselves, worked in partnership with the NDTi to run the survey and launch the report. The report showed us that Advocates were seeing more unsettling cases – at a time when safeguarding referrals dropped by 45% – and were helping more and more people to reclaim the most basic of rights. We know that our Advocates were extremely frustrated and concerned at their increasing workloads and the things they were up against.
In the survey, half of the UK’s Advocates reported that care providers had stopped all visits and almost half (47%) reported that people were confined to their rooms. Three quarters of Advocates said that peoples’ human rights were not fully upheld, and only 7% of advocates reported being able to fully access the living places of the people they supported. 48% reported not being able to meet with people at all.
All this has led to a negative mental effect on the country’s Advocates, and even, many of them returning to roles in social care, or finding alternative paths to take. The toll was huge. Yet they didn’t receive claps on doorsteps or praise from the media.
We like to think of ourselves as experts in workplace wellbeing, we have the awards to prove it, and a plethora of people who have used our services who can attest to the five-star rating of our workplace mental health training. We recently came second out of 114 national organisations in Mind Charity’s Workplace Wellbeing index for our own internal policies and procedures.
During the pandemic, over half of our Advocates (56%) accessed our mental health support tools.
In our workplace survey, we found that during the pandemic, over half of our Advocates (56%) accessed our mental health support tools. As a supportive workplace, it is comforting to know that 75% of our team feel confident disclosing their mental health at work and that a large majority are using them. I have to say, I wasn’t surprised at all by the number of people in our team needing additional support during this time. We know as an organisation, how important it is to support our Advocates, so that they are in a better position to support the people in our communities. A whopping 98% of our team said they were provided with sufficient guidance and resources of how to stay well during the pandemic from us.
So what did we do? We upped our avenues for free mental health support, giving them multiple options to turn to, we helped ease them into the new working world with an action packed training and development calendar, we introduced new wellbeing initiatives such as weekly wellbeing hours, virtual team huddles and wellbeing days, we ensured we continued to facilitate an open and accepting organisation – albeit remotely, our dedicated wellbeing team went above and beyond to deliver useful tools and resources, and our managerial team continued with the All Fine Helpline, a dedicated number for Advocates to ring if they had any issues or concerns, to offload, knowing they will always be taken seriously and to be listened to.
Not only that, but we went to great lengths to ensure they stayed safe at work, issuing weekly guidance and updates from our dedicated COVID response team, training them extensively in how to use PPE correctly and we ensured that we took their lead on how they felt about their safety.
Moving On from the Pandemic
We know that the job of an Advocate is only going to get busier. We await with some uncertainty to see what the winter will bring and nervously accept that we must learn to co-exist with a virus that stopped the world in its tracks. You can already see the sector bracing itself for another potential outbreak as the winter months creep in, that’s where we need to be ready, ready to respond to the needs of our communities- no matter how that looks.
Not only do our Advocates have to think about the people they support and their increasing workload, they also live with the constant worry that their job is never entirely safe.
What we do know, is that the demand for health, social care and advocacy will only increase. The COVID response, although necessary, set our sector back in so many ways. Many services now have significant waiting lists, emergency funding is drying up and we once again enter the competitive arena of bidding for work to ensure sustainability and continuation of services for our beneficiaries. Not only do our Advocates have to think about the people they support and their increasing workload, they also live with the constant worry that their job is never entirely safe.
Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom, I’m confident that as a sector we can all pull together. By working together and remembering why we got into health and social care in the first place, we can face all these upcoming challenges head on. We can learn, adapt and grow together, improving outcomes for those who need us. For the people that rely on our support, failure is not an option.
As Advocacy organisations, we must get better at demonstrating the impact our services have in our communities, and the outcomes the people we work with achieve. We must work together to demystify this word ‘Advocacy’ that’s often met with confused faces and associated with legal services, so that the sector can get the recognition it deserves. And we must get better at praising our Advocates on the ground, who are supporting people and bringing change in people’s lives, side by side, shoulder to shoulder, a partner, a supporter, someone who is truly there for the person.
So,this Advocacy Awareness Week, I’m hoping to raise awareness of the amazing work carried out by all the Advocates nationally, a silent and vital cog of the health and social care sector. Let them be recognised for playing such an essential part over the last 18 months. We have learnt a lot along the way, suffered losses and have been filled with grief, and through it all we will come back stronger, as individuals, organisations, and a sector – with many lessons learnt.
Here’s to the next 18 months – we are coming back stronger.
My family have a background in social care and have supported family members who have been diagnosed with dementia so I am aware of what a minefield the social care system can be to navigate.
As a family,we had been involved with making important decisions about our relatives when they had lost capacity to do so. We realised how important it was that we were involved as often what the professionals were suggesting was the exact opposite of what they would have wanted.
From decisions about treatment, putting in place a Do Not Attempt Resuscitation order, or where they should live – the decision making never seemed to start by considering what the person would want, rather what the professionals felt was best. But what would have happened if we hadn’t been involved?
I quickly realised that Advocates have such a vital role in supporting people to make sure that very important decisions about their lives aren’t made without them being involved.
Before becoming an independent Advocate, I was at university studying law. I had gone in to my third year unsure of what I wanted to do after graduating, as I wasn’t sure that legal practice was suited to me, but knew that I wanted a career where I could use my knowledge to help people.
During my final year, I studied mental health law and found out about the work of Independent Advocates – a role I hadn’t been aware of before, but soon realised what important work they do. Advocates are the ones that speak up for people when they don’t have any family members to do so. We can support when family members who are feeling (understandably) overwhelmed by the system and don’t know where to turn..
I quickly realised that Advocates have such a vital role in supporting people to make sure that very important decisions about their lives aren’t made without them being involved.
I wanted to become an Advocate to support people to be heard and kept at the centre of any decisions that are made about their lives. I’ve been an Advocate for five years, but that time has flown by! Advocacy is a really rewarding role that allows me to apply my knowledge of the law to support people, uphold their rights and have their voice heard. I’m still really interested in the academic side of law and keep up to date with legal developments and with case law coming out of the Court of Protection.
When the Liberty Protection Safeguards were announced to replace the current Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards, I was keen to follow their development through Parliament to where we are now – eagerly awaiting the Code of Practice and the Regulations that will tell us what our advocacy role will look like under this new system.
This has led to an exciting career development for me, as I have taken on the role of LPS Lead here at Advocacy Focus. There is so much yet to find out about how the advocacy role will be different under DOLS, but we know that LPS will provide safeguards to more people that are deprived of their liberty – meaning that we are able to support and make a difference for many more people. Implementing LPS will be a challenge, but it’s one I’m looking forward to!
If you’re interested in a career in advocacy, check out our careers page.
Our Trustee, Chris, tells us how he’s getting on as the newest member of our Board, as part of Trustees Week 2021. Fancy becoming a Trustee for our charity? Then, read on!
With the first week of November being UK Trustees Week, as a relatively new Trustee I thought I’d share my thoughts on my first twelve months or so in the role with Advocacy Focus.
So, how did I become a Trustee? Well, it wasn’t something that I had ever really considered before. Pre-Covid, I was fully focused on my consultancy business which involved travelling up and down the country. Then, as we all know, things changed and travelling became more infrequent. I looked for networking opportunities and discovered a regular meeting held virtually at the University of Central Lancashire. Our CEO Justine was in the same meeting, had mentioned that they were on the lookout for new Trustees and following a couple of emails and conversations I was invited to attend my first meeting.
I didn’t really know much about the concept of advocacy before joining the Board to be honest. I wasn’t sure that I’d necessarily be able to add much value but from the discussions it was clear that my skills would bring something different and that actually it wasn’t a problem.
The other Trustees and the Senior Leadership Team have been incredibly supportive – I was provided with a buddy on the Board that I could ask any daft questions if I needed to (which I did!).
Having spent the first few meetings all virtual, we had our first face-to-face Board meeting in October, and it was great to meet my other Trustees in person rather than as a little picture in the corner of a computer screen.
I’ve also taken every opportunity I could to join in the activities that Board members have been invited to – so I have been to a Wellbeing Day and to a Team Meeting since the pandemic-related restrictions have started to ease. It’s been great to meet the wider team to hear first-hand of their experiences delivering the excellent advocacy work they’re doing on a daily basis. It gives me an opportunity to understand more about what we do as a charity and hopefully at the same time gives the team access to the Board as I have worked in organisations that have been very much an ‘us and them’ mentality between the employees and the Board. I wasn’t able to get to what sounded like an excellent conference that they hosted because of work commitments I couldn’t rearrange but other Trustees attended and fed back on how everyone did a brilliant job.
In terms of time commitment, I sit on two sub-groups (currently chairing one) and the regular quarterly Board meetings. So it’s probably two or three hours a month I would imagine (attending the other team activities are optional but I’ve been able to work around work commitments). I feel like I’m able to add value and give something back as a result of being a Trustee, and look forward to continuing to do so in the future. I didn’t know about Advocacy Focus before but now am passionate about trying to help them in any small way to being the best they can be.
By Chris Lintern, Trustee, Advocacy Focus.
Chris has spent almost 20 years specialising in risk management and resilience across a number of sectors, and set up his own business just over three years ago. He has worked within financial services within the banking and insurance arms of the Co-op and at Barclays, and moved to Jermyn Consulting in 2014 before establishing Ashton Resilience in 2017. He provides consultancy support to organisations within financial services, higher and further education, and food manufacturing.
What is a Trustee?
Trustees sit on the board of a charity. They play a vital role – volunteering their time and expertise to make important decisions about the charity’s work.
Why become a Trustee?
Contact us on 0300 323 0965 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to find out more about how to become a Trustee for Advocacy Focus.
The Advocacy Focus app is finally here. Download the My Focus app from the Apple App Store and Google Play now!
What is it?
Based on the principles from our Self Advocacy Toolkit, our new app helps you to be your best self advocate, as well as allowing you to reflect on your current issues, make notes, build your confidence, learn new skills and measure your progress.
How can it help me?
The My Issues section allows you to work through your issue piece by piece, dissecting the problem and helping you to establish and formulate your wishes. The app will also help you to build your communication skills, in the ‘My Skills’ section and give you tools such as a meeting notes section and a meeting preparation tool.
Where can I download it?
You can download it from the Apple App Store or Google Play right now. Simply search ‘advocacy focus’ in your app store search bar.