April’s implementation of the first statutory advocacy service, as part of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, should have been a defining moment for those who lack capacity and have no family or friends.
Since then, local authorities and NHS trusts have been required to appoint an independent mental capacity advocate to represent the service user when making decisions about medical treatment or changes to residence.
These advocates are charged with protecting the interests of the person concerned, who may lack capacity through dementia, learning disability, brain injury or mental health – and their advice must be taken into account.
This week, six months on, Community Care reveals there’s still a way to go before advocacy services are commissioned and accessed effectively and comprehensively.
On the commissioning side, short-term contracts risk creating instability in fledgling services. While, with access, more training of referring professionals is needed so they better understand who qualifies.
This patchy performance on advocacy services provides learning points for the next stage of implementation of the Mental Capacity Act. One of the steps, in October, is to extend the power of attorney. Based on our findings, local authorities need to review their preparation for this.
As the service user voice – or that of their representative – becomes ever more vital to delivering effective social care, advocacy services must be given equal priority and support to those considered more mainstream.
Short-term contracts hamper take off for advocacy services
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