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Why advocacy is vital – but at risk – post-Winterbourne

Advocacy.jpgAll those with an interest in Winterbourne View, safeguarding or advocacy may want to take a look at this report from major advocacy provider VoiceAbility about why advocacy is so important to the response to the scandal but why provision is at such risk at the moment.

It includes some good analysis of the Care Quality Commission’s inspection reports from its review of learning disability provision launched in response to Winterbourne (the latest reports from which were published yesterday). VoiceAbility found:-

  • Service users often had to request advocacy, rather than have advocates available to go to.
  • Users and families lacked accessible information on how to access advocacy, raise a concern or make a complaint.
  • Advocacy was rarely used to help service users make decisions on their care and support.

It also raises concerns about the bigger picture for advocacy, including:

  • A warning about the trends for councils or the NHS to commission issue-based advocacy, often on a spot purchasing basis (i.e. when issues arise). VoiceAbility warns that advocates need to build up relationships with people before they are prepared to disclose abuse or other safeguarding issues. A purely issue-based approach would prevent this.
  • Existing commissioning arrangements sometimes leave insufficient scope for advocacy providers develop skills and expertise and train staff, because they have to focus on direct client work.

  • Existing advocacy qualifications, while useful, have insufficient focus on safeguarding, and must be reviewed.

(For more on cuts to advocacy services see Action for Advocacy’s Advocacy in a cold climate report last year)

The VoiceAbility study is designed to influence the Department of Health’s overarching review into Winterbourne View. Hopefully civil servants will have picked up a copy.

(Image courtesy of Action for Advocacy)

Mithran Samuel

About Mithran Samuel

Mithran Samuel is adults' editor at Community Care.

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