1. Breaking Barriers Conference 2024

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    Breaking Barriers is back after a highly successful conference in 2021; attended by over 100 health and social care professionals across the North West. The feedback was just as positive with 100% of delegates stating they walked away having learned something new.

    Breaking Barriers aims to bridge the gaps between services and provide better outcomes for the people we support. It is one day dedicated to raising awareness and understanding of the importance of advocacy and the impact it has on our communities.

    With ground-breaking talks and workshops from leading industry professionals, key speakers and more; we bring you the latest trends, case law, legislation changes affecting the health and social care industry and much more.

    Confirmed host!

    Jake Mills, CEO of Chasing the Stigma, will be returning to host our third Breaking Barriers Conference. An expert in mental health and wellbeing, and Advocacy Focus’ Patron, Jake is a true advocate of our mission to make advocacy accessible to all.

    Headline speaker – Francesca Gardner from 39 Essex Chambers – ‘What now the Mental Health Act reform is ditched?’

    Headline speaker – Neil Allen from 39 Essex Chambers – ‘Making the best use of Deprivations of Liberty Safeguards’

    Headline speaker – Darren from Mission Impossible, Trafford Self-Advocacy Group – ‘The Importance of Self-Advocacy’

    Workshop speaker – Philippa Curran from odonnells – ‘Welfare Matters” 

    Workshop speaker – Sophie Maloney from Stephensons Solicitors – ‘Internet, social media, and mental capacity’

    Workshop speaker – Malcolm Johnson from Lime Solicitors – ‘Looked after Unaccompanied Asylum Seekers’

    Workshop speaker – Advocacy Focus – ‘Challenging DoLS’

    Workshop speaker – Kate Mercer from Kate Mercer Training – ‘Awesome Advocacy

    Workshop speaker – Laura Ingham from Armed Forces HQ – ‘Advocating for the armed forces community’

    Date – Thursday 21 March 2024 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM (UTC+00)

    Venue – Farington Lodge, Stanifield Lane, Farington, Leyland, PR25 4QR

    Sponsored by

    Book your tickets here Breaking Barriers 2024 – Advocacy Focus

  2. Poor mental health costs UK employers up to £45 billion each year

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    The ongoing cost of living crisis has caused huge financial pressures for many people and is currently one of the leading causes of stress in the UK.  With a 23% increase being noted from 2022. A recent survey found that people are feeling anxious, stressed, and hopeless due to their current financial situation. The same survey found that financial concerns were impacting on people’s day-to-day activities, with 30% of adults having a poorer quality of sleep, 23% meeting friends less often, and 12% exercising less.

    But poor mental health doesn’t just carry a huge personal cost. Recent research shows that poor mental health costs UK employers up to £45 billion each year – and this figure is growing year on year.

    There is however good news! If businesses invest in supporting their people’s mental health, they will not only see a gain in productivity, fewer sickness absences and lower staff turnover, work can provide a sense of purpose, structure and create meaningful connections. All of which is health-promoting for the employee.

    And while many organisations currently invest in some level of mental health support, recent data reveals a lack of employee engagement and take-up. So why aren’t people engaging with support that is set up to help them?

    There are many reasons, but the main one is the stigma, that still exists in many workplaces. People may fear that they will be treated differently, that they won’t be considered for promotion, or that they risk losing their jobs if they tell someone they are struggling. That is why it is crucial that workplaces develop a positive culture around mental health and wellbeing. Support has to be widely available, in an easy, stigma-free way. And that is where Advocacy Focus can help you!

    Our charity has worked in the health and social care sector for over 25 years. Supporting people who are living through some of the most challenging times of their life. In our own workplace, we don’t just talk the talk, we have delivered impactful wellbeing initiatives for over 10 years! More recently our work was recognised nationally when we were awarded ‘Top Employer’ in the charity Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index – for two years in a row. Not bad for a small charity in the North of England!

    It’s our proudest achievement, because it’s an award that celebrates all we have done and continue to do for our people. We invest in them first and foremost, because they are our most valuable resource and we couldn’t deliver our services across the North-West without them. So if like us you recognise that without your team your business would crumble, it is time to act!

    Don’t be another UK business losing thousands of pounds, or good people, to poor mental health. Our training and consultancy services can help you:

    • Improve productivity
    • Decrease sickness absences
    • Create more motivated teams

    And more…

    Get in touch with Carolina at to discuss your training needs!


    Champion Health. The Workplace Health Report: 2023.

  3. Check Out Micaela’s experience as an Independent Visitor:

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    We would like to shine a spotlight on one of our amazing volunteer Independent Visitors, Micaela, who has ten years sports coaching experience in schools and recently qualified to be a psychologist.

    Micaela told us, “I have seen how important it is for young people to have someone to reach out to and have that 1-1 nurturing support as when they don’t, you can see how much it affects them”. I wanted to make a difference for those that needed this and this is my way of giving back”.

    During Micaela’s time with us, she has made a huge contribution. When Micaela first met her young person, she was full of apprehension, wondering whether the match with her young person would be a success.  Both Michaela and her young person soon connected and became relaxed, it soon became apparent that her young person is very keen about sports; loving watching football and longing to play. Micaela is the perfect match and they hit it off!

    Since becoming an Independent Visitor, Micaela has been creative in finding activities suitable for her young person and helping explore things that her young person had not tried before.

    The search for a local football club is underway and Michaela regularly takes her young person to Liverpool ladies football matches, which her young person says is “magical” as she had never been to one. Michaela’s young person said “I absolutely loved it” and her foster family tell us that “she had not stopped talking about it for days”.

    And it doesn’t stop there …  Micaela has been supporting her young person to experience new and exciting activities, including Ninja Warrior, going bowling and to the cinema. The foster family have also fed back that the young person is really excited about Micaela’s visits and asks repeatedly “when is Micaela is coming?”

  4. New Community Focus Hub opening in Burnley

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    We are thrilled to announce the launch of our new Community Focus Hub in Burnley.

    On Thursday, 1st February 2024 we are having an Open Day and you’re invited.

    You can find out more about the support we can offer, learn about other organisations in your area, and engage with the community.

    Join us for a day of information, connection, and community engagement.

    Please come along on

    Date: Thursday, 1st February
    Time: 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM
    Location: 16c Hargreaves St, Burnley, BB11 1DZ

    Refreshments: Tea, coffee, and cakes

    About Community Focus:

    The Community Focus Hub is dedicated to supporting individuals facing health and social care challenges.

    We extend our assistance in areas such as housing, benefits, access to training, education, and employment.

    Our community team is on hand to provide 1-1 advocacy support for a range of issues and is here to help you live the life you want to live.

    How to get involved:

    Please save the date: Pop the date in your calendar for the Community Focus Open Day!

    Help spread the word: Share this invitation with friends, family, and anyone who might benefit.

    Bring Questions: Our team will be on hand to address your queries and concerns.

    Engage and Connect: Be part of a supportive community network.

    What to expect at the Community Focus Hub Open Day:

    Information Booths: Gain insights into health and social care, housing, and more.

    Education and Training Opportunities: Discover pathways to enhance your skills.

    Employment Resources: Explore job opportunities and career advice.

    Volunteer Opportunities: Learn about ways to give back to your community.

    Let’s come together to create a stronger, more connected community. Your presence makes a difference! 

  5. We are raising vital funds for our Looked After Children Services and need your help.  Here is Stephen’s story:

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    Stephen is 7 years old and has ASD& ADHD.   He was placed with a foster family after a very difficult childhood and was soon thriving. The entire foster family thought of him as “their own” and he was settled for the first time in his life.

    However, a year later the decision was taken by the local authority to move Stephen and place him with another foster family, due to how close he was living to his birth family and the risk this posed. The impact for everyone was potentially devastating.

    Our Advocate worked with Stephen, fiercely championed his rights and highlighted the impact of such a move to the local authority. After a very lengthy and emotionally charged process – which involved gaining the support of the Children’s Commissioner for England – the local authority apologised for their actions and agreed that Stephen would not be moved.  They then agreed to support the foster family with a house relocation to reduce any future risks and to keep Stephen and his new family together. 

    Stephen continues to thrive and is happy and settled thanks to the support of his tenacious Advocate.

    To make a donation to help others like Stephen, please donate via our Christmas Campaign page here or visit our just giving page here

    Read the full story of how we supported Stephen here

  6. Advocacy Focus wins Mental Health Safety Improvement Award at the HSJ Patient Safety Awards

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    Advocacy Focus is thrilled to share the news that our Advocacy for Autistic People in Mental Health Inpatient Settings pilot won the Mental Health Safety Improvement Award at this year’s HSJ Patient Safety Awards. Awards which recognise safety, cultures and positive experiences in patient care.

    The event celebrates hard-working teams and people across the UK, who, facing staff shortages and cuts due to rising financial costs, still go above and beyond to deliver a high level of patient care and provide safe settings for people.

    A record-breaking 516 entries were received with 206 organisations, projects and people making it to the final shortlist, after two rounds of rigorous judging.

    The Awards were the highlight of HSJ’s annual two-day Patient Safety Congress where delegates took part in open and honest discussions around the current reality faced by patients in terms of their safety.

    Health Editor of the Sunday Times, Shaun Lintern who Chaired the HSJ Patient Safety Congress said;

    “As in previous years, the HSJ Patient Safety Awards ceremony formed a key part of our 2023 Congress and it’s always such an honour to be a position to congratulate all of the winners, which this year includes Advocacy Focus who scooped ‘top spot’ in the category of Mental Health Safety Improvement.

    The award winning pilot involved working with autistic inpatients across Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust (LSCFT) hospitals. The aim was to gather people’s views, wishes and experiences about their care and treatment and their experience of advocacy services. This feedback was to help shape inpatient services and meet the needs of autistic people.  Feedback that would help all services involved improve and effectively support people to have better outcomes.

    Advocacy Focus felt privileged to work with and amplify the voices of people in inpatient settings and promote change to better meet their own unique needs and  experiences. We provided advocacy to a group of people who would not ordinarily have such support, and to have that work recognised, was an incredible cause for celebration for all the team involved.

    Our Advocacy Manager, Ellie Bradley, that led on the pilot said:  “We’re absolutely thrilled to have won this award for our Advocacy for Autistic People in Mental Health Inpatient Settings pilot project. The pilot was set up to help bridge the gap in the Mental Health Act and provide advocacy support to autistic informal patients. This work took important steps towards ensuring that people’s wishes and views were heard and respected. Supporting this often overlooked group of people to be aware of their rights and support them to have their needs listened to and met, will essentially go some way to improving both their safety and long term outcomes.”

  7. Advocacy Focus successfully resecure the Lancashire Advocacy Hub contract.

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    We are delighted to announce that we have successfully re-secured the Lancashire Advocacy Hub contract. The service will re-launch on the 1st of August 2023 and will run for the next five years. Our team are delighted to be continuing to support people in Lancashire with their health and social care advocacy needs.

    Advocacy Focus will provide support to people over the age of 16 with issues or problems faced surrounding health or social care. We will be providing non statutory and statutory advocacy services consisting of
    – Care Act Advocacy,
    – Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy,
    – Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards- Paid RPR,
    – Independent Mental Health Advocacy,
    – Complaints Advocacy,
    – Community Advocacy and more

    Why is Advocacy important?
    For some people, it can feel like decisions are being made about them, without them, but Advocacy Focus will be there to make sure that important decisions are being made with the person. Advocacy helps people to understand their rights, put forward their views and wishes, and explore the different options that are open to them.Our team of Advocates will help put the power back into the hands of the person, promote their voice when they feel unheard, and help them to understand their situation. People often don’t know what advocacy is until they really need it.As part of our commitment to Lancashire, we also promised to offer wider benefits via our Community Focus project, where we will be providing advocacy support to people with a wide range of issues not just health and social care, such as housing issues, benefits problems, and assist in accessing education, training, and employment.

    Our Chief Executive Office, Justine Forster, has this to say about resecuring the Lancashire advocacy provision contract

    “We’ve been Looking After Lancashire for over a decade from our head office in Accrington. Our team live and work in our Lancashire communities and are tenacious when it comes to helping people to get the health and social care outcomes they are looking for. We care about our County and the people in it, so we are looking forward to working with any organisations that share the same vision as ours, to provide advocacy for all and to make sure that people are seen, heard and listened to when it comes to making big decisions in their lives. We are your Lancashire provider, and we will be working in partnership to help people to live the lives they want – and choose – to live.”



    Advocacy Focus is thrilled to share the news that our Advocacy for Autistic People in Mental Health Inpatient Settings pilot has been shortlisted for Mental Health Safety Improvement Award and Patient Safety Pilot Project of the Year at this year’s HSJ Patient Safety Awards which recognises safety, culture and positive experience in patient care, celebrating its worthy finalists on a national scale.

    The HSJ Patient Safety Awards acknowledges the hard-working teams and individuals across the UK who are continually striving to deliver improved patient care.

    A record-breaking 515 entries were received for the HSJ Patient Safety Awards 2023, with 209 organisations, projects and individuals making it to the final shortlist. The high volume – and exceptional quality – of applications is once again reflecting the dedication and commitment to patient care within the UK’s healthcare networks.

    Of the 24 categories, three are new for 2023, representing some of the recent initiatives and current focus areas within the NHS. These comprise the award for staff wellbeing initiative of the year; safety improvement through technology award; and urgent and emergency care safety initiative of the year

    The judging panel was made up of a diverse range of highly influential and respected figures within the healthcare community.

    Following the thorough judging process to date, Advocacy Focus was shortlisted, ahead of the official awards ceremony to be held later this year in Manchester (September 18th).  The Awards are a highlight of the HSJ’s annual 2-day Patient Safety Congress (taking place on 18 & 19 September), where delegates working at the forefront of safety, quality and clinical excellence will come together to join in with open and honest discussions about the current reality of safety.

    At this first stage of judging, the shortlist was set against three clear criteria; clinical and specialist excellence; enacting organisation-wide change and service/system innovation.

    Our pilot aimed to bridge the gap in the Mental Health Act and provide advocacy support to autistic informal patients ensuring their wishes and views were heard and respected. Supporting a potentially more vulnerable group of people to be aware of their rights and support them to be heard. Additionally, we have been engaging with autistic inpatients across Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust (LSCFT) hospitals. The aim of this engagement has been to gather the views, wishes and experiences of people across the trust surrounding their care and treatment and their experience of advocacy. These views have been collected with the vision of this shaping how inpatient services meet the needs of autistic people using their services and how effective advocacy services are.

    It is incredibly exciting to have the pilot work we have done be shortlisted for two HSJ Patient Safety Awards. We have been privileged enough to amplify the voices of people in inpatient services and promote change to better meet their needs based on their own unique experiences. Providing advocacy to autistic informal people who would ordinarily not have independent support and have that work recognised is an incredible achievement for all our team who were involved.

    Ellie Bradley

    SJ editor Alastair McLellan, adds; “As always, it’s a pleasure at this stage of our lengthy judging process, to be able to offer my congratulations to Advocacy Focus, as the shortlisted finalists are revealed for this years’ HSJ Patient Safety Awards.

    “Every one of the projects, Trusts, teams and individuals who entered this year have truly demonstrated their skills in setting – and delivering – the highest of standards in healthcare excellence, presenting our venerable panel of judges with some difficult decisions.

    “I’m looking forward to welcoming our finalists to the awards ceremony in September, where we’ll have a fantastic opportunity to come together and celebrate some really impressive achievements, whilst sharing experiences, best practice and learning from our colleagues working in a diverse range of roles across the healthcare sector.”

    The full list of finalists for the 2023 HSJ Patient Safety Awards can be found at

    Winners will be announced during the awards ceremony at Manchester Central, on September 18th 2023.

  9. Wellbeing starts with our people

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    Our charity’s core focus is to support people going through health and social care processes. We don’t deal with widgets or products. Our business is people. People that are going through some difficult and upsetting things.  That’s why wellbeing and a safe workplace environment is a key focus of ours.  Our team can’t help and support others if they are not well themselves.  Or are struggling at different times in their lives. So wellbeing starts with our people.

    We began our wellbeing journey in 2014. We looked at ‘normalising the conversation.’  Letting our team turn up as their whole selves, however they were feeling, without fear of being judged. After all we are an advocacy charity, so being non-judgmental is central to all we do. But change, even of the good kind, is still change and things didn’t happen overnight. However, it worked, because we were fully committed to putting wellbeing at the heart of our people offer.  It was too important not to, failure was not an option. We started with little things at first, bitesize sessions on topics such as stress, ‘time to talk’ days and random acts of kindness, like an early finish workday. 

    We set up a Wellbeing Team who were there to support their colleagues when needed, but also planned activities for our  team meetings.  Origami one time, a pop quiz the next.  Little steps towards a culture that cared about its people. The Wellbeing Team then developed and rolled out ‘healthy self’ toolkits for both our team and the wider community.  Because wellbeing isn’t something that should be contained or kept secret.  It should ripple beyond the walls of any organisation and benefit family, friends, communities. So that is what we did.  We went into colleges, walked around Accrington town centre with signs around our necks asking people to talk to us about how they were feeling.  And they did that in their droves. Because people want to feel something, anything.  They want to feel connected and be a part of something.  They want to be seen, heard and listened to.

    Today we have a safe and positive workplace. We have people that can turn up with anxiety, depression or struggling with their menopause symptoms and know someone will listen to them. We have birthday days off, one wellbeing hour every week, fully flexible working and extra ‘life leave’ for special occasions such as weddings or moving house. We have a wellbeing room in our head office in Accrington that the team took ownership of. Our people can go in there to read, rest, relax and even have a power nap if they are feeling tired. A workfree zone just for them.  We go on regular wellbeing walks – dogs included – and we celebrate success together at team meetings or work parties.  Because we are successful.  Our charity has grown beyond its Lancashire borders into Salford, St Helens, Trafford and the wider North West.  Because wellbeing is not just the right thing to do, it reaps huge rewards when it comes to a productive, happy workforce that get their difficult job done and deliver best practice advocacy.

    Wellbeing isn’t complex.  It isn’t something to overthink.  It is simply being human and allowing your people to be human too.  It helped us weather the pandemic and the ongoing cost of living crisis.  Our team, although they have their own personal challenges, are looked after and valued.  That cannot be understated.  Here’s to wellbeing and to being human first, employer second.

  10. Demystifying the 39D IMCA

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    by Leanne Barber

    It’s Mental Capacity Act Week of Action, and we want to shine the light on one of our vital advocacy services, that is often a lifeline to family and friends of a loved one who is Deprived of their Liberty in a hospital or care home. I want to talk about a specific advocacy role known as a 39d IMCA (Independent Mental Capacity Advocate). A 39d IMCA is available when a standard authorisation (a formal document setting out a person’s care arrangements) is in place to deprive them of their liberty. This means they are subject to a DoLS (the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards). The person will also have an unpaid relevant person’s representative (RPR). This is normally a family member or a friend, and both the family member or friend and the person being deprived of their liberty are entitled to the support of a 39d IMCA. 

    A key function of a 39d IMCA is to support the person being deprived of their liberty and the RPR to understand their RPR role and the person’s rights. The RPR must be confident in exercising their rights. A 39d IMCA is expected to take reasonable steps to help the relevant person and the relevant person’s representative. This can include helping them to: understand the legal terms of the deprivation of liberty, the assessments which are required, and how to exercise the person’s rights if they object to the deprivation of liberty, or elements of it (these are referred to as restrictions). 

    Family and friends undertaking the role of RPR can often become confused, overwhelmed, and unsure if they are doing the “right thing”, as an RPR you need to be confident to address issues affecting the person who is deprived of their liberty. That’s often where we come in. A 39D IMCA can support the RPR and help them build the confidence to advocate for their loved one. It can be challenging for an RPR if a loved one is unhappy or unsettled in a care home that they themselves may have picked and agreed to them moving there.  

    As an RPR it’s important that you can exercise the loved ones Article 5 (4) right to challenge their detention. This can often conflict with the RPR’s personal values and opinions. A 39D IMCA can support the RPR to overcome their personal obstacles and help with starting the challenge process.

    As a service we regularly collect feedback and I wanted to share with you some recent experiences of people we have supported in their role as RPR as a 39D IMCA.

    “I had a long, detailed, and informative chat with Advocacy Focus with regard to my role as a Relevant Persons Representative (RPR) for a person who is subject to a DOLS (Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards). Whilst it was decided that at present, I do not require support from the Advocacy service, it was good to know that support in the future would be available if required. From this conversation, I gained some useful knowledge about my rights as an RPR that I was previously unaware of. Thank you.” 

    “I recently had contact with Advocacy Focus in regards to the RPR position for a relative who is subject to Dols. This person was appointed to my relative’s case and contacted me to discuss. I found this lady to be such a wonderful person to speak to, very attentive, and made me feel so much more at ease about the whole situation. I can’t thank her enough. The whole experience was great from start to finish. Nothing was too much trouble, any questions I had were answered in depth and helped me and my family a great deal. Highly recommended!” 

    “They have ‘gone beyond’ in supporting us through an extremely difficult time in our lives. Whilst the decision we now face is extremely difficult, at the very least our mum will have her wish and have the chance to come home.” 

    If you need any help and support with a family or friend who is Deprived of their Liberty, contact us on 0300 323 0965 and our team will do their upmost to provide the assistance you need.  

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