When important decisions are being made about your life, like decisions about care, support or housing, you must be able to express your own wishes and feelings.
But if you have difficulty understanding or remembering information when important decisions are being made that affect you, you may need the help of an advocacy service.
An advocacy service helps you to:
- access information and services
- be involved in decisions about your life
- understand your choices and options
- defend your rights
- speak out about issues that matter to you.
What independent advocates do
An advocate is a person who can argue your case when you need them to, in any situation relating to decisions about care, support or housing.
An advocate will also make sure that Adult Social Care and health services follow the correct procedures.
The advocate will always be independent which means that they don't work for social care or health services.
They don't give their personal opinion and they do not represent the views of social care or health services.
Being independent means they are there to represent your wishes.
Some of the things that an independent advocate might do include:
- helping you to find out information
- going with you and supporting you in meetings, for example, meeting with your social worker and others involved in planning your support
- writing letters on your behalf
- speaking for you in situations where you don't feel able to speak for yourself.
How advocacy works
Brighton & Hove City Council wants to involve you in decisions about your own care and support. We try to find out the best way to get you involved by:
- asking you if you would find it difficult to be involved in assessing your own needs or arranging your own care and support
- asking you if you have a relative or friend who could help you to be involved in decisions and help you to express your wishes.
If you don't have a relative or friend who could help you and would have ‘substantial difficulty’ in being involved, Brighton & Hove City Council will arrange for an independent advocate to support you.
The definition of ‘substantial difficulty’
If you do not have an appropriate person to support you, we will consider four things to help us decide if you would have ‘substantial difficulty’ in being involved:
- can you understand relevant information, or would you be able to if more time were given to explaining it?
- can you retain information long enough to be able to weigh up options and make decisions?
- can you weigh up information so you can express preferences or choose between options?
- can you communicate your views, wishes and feelings by talking, writing, signing or any other means?
Independent advocacy providers
In Brighton & Hove, independent advocacy services are provided by the Brighton & Hove Advocacy Partnership. The partnership is made up of:
- Mind in Brighton & Hove – advocacy services for adults with mental health problems including those affecting older people
- Speak Out – advocacy for adults with learning disabilities
- Impetus – Impetus' Interact service provides advocacy for people with learning disabilities who are involved in the criminal courts as either a victim or witness to crime, or the civil courts due to child protection proceedings, and benefit or employment tribunals.
- Age UK – advocacy services for vulnerable older people including those with sensory impairment
- The Fed Centre for Independent Living – advocacy for adults with a physical and/or sensory impairment.
Advocacy services for people with mental health needs
If you lack mental capacity, your advocacy may be provided by an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA).
Find out more about Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy.
If you've been detained under the Mental Health Act or you are under a Community Treatment Order, you can still get help to express your views with an Independent Mental Health Advocate.
Mental health charity Mind in Brighton & Hove provides Independent Mental Health Advocates for people who have been detained under the Mental Health Act.
If you or someone that you know needs the support of an independent advocate, please contact Access Point, the contact centre for Adult Social Care services.