Vulnerable lose out on advocacy as cuts and demand take toll

Access to advocacy for vulnerable groups is to fall significantly due to a combination of rising demand and substantial funding cuts, sector umbrella group Action for Advocacy has found.

Access to advocacy for vulnerable groups is to fall significantly due to a combination of rising demand and substantial funding cuts, sector umbrella group Action for Advocacy has found.

Forty-five per cent of organisations have had their funding cut this year – by 36% on average. Two-thirds predict future cuts at a time when demand for their services has risen in 60% of them, Action for Advocacy’s survey of 95 bodies found.

As a result, 63% of advocacy bodies said they would be able to help fewer people in future, while 36% predicted redundancies and 20 advocacy services may have to close, the survey found.

Most of the cuts came from councils, while respondents attributed the rise in demand to changes in welfare benefits, health and social care provision, coupled with increasing debt and financial problems.

Non-statutory advocacy services have been particularly badly hit, with 74% of organisations saying their funding was insufficient to cover this provision.

This was in contrast to statutory independent mental capacity advocate and independent mental health advocate services, funding for which was sufficient in 71% and 68% of organisations respectively.

Of those with a funding shortfall, 48% said staff were working unpaid hours and 19% said they were turning service users away.

The results come with many experts highlighting the importance of advocacy in the wake of the Winterbourne View abuse scandal.

John Nawrockyi, co-chair of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services disability network, said service users who did not meet thresholds for council-funded advocacy can often find help through the third sector.

“By definition, there will be a number of people with lower and moderate levels of need who don’t qualify for statutory services, which explains some of the figures revealed in this survey,” he said. “That doesn’t mean these service users aren’t getting any support though.

“In Greenwich [where Nawrockyi is director], we do offer lower level prevention services, consisting of advice and guidance, but it may not fall into the formal category of advocacy, which explains why people responding to the survey felt there wasn’t enough money. This is often done through the third sector.”

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