Advocacy Awareness Week 2023: Specialist Advocate

6 November 2023

Advocacy Awareness Week 2023

As part of our Advocacy Awareness Week series, we spoke to one of our Advocates from our Specialist team. Our specialist advocates are IMHA (Independent Mental Health Advisors) and can support clients in a number of settings, including Psychiatric wards and care homes.

What is your role?

Specialist Advocate

How long have you been an Advocate at Derbyshire Mind?

I’ve been in role for two years but have always (unofficially) advocated for those I’ve cared for.

Why is working as an advocate important to you?

We can ensure that people are listened to and can really make a difference to the outcomes people have.  Often clinical teams struggle to engage with a patient as they are the ones who enforce meds/depots and have to refuse leave and keep doors locked etc, we can be separate from clinical care, so clients are able to express their wishes to us more freely and clinical teams have to justify why they are imposing a particular restriction.

What does ‘A Day in the life of’ look like for a Specialist Advocate?

A day in the life can be tough, exhausting and rewarding. It can be all day in a psychiatric ward as an IMHA trying to help people to navigate MHA law, treatment plans, and ensure the proper safeguards are in place for all patients (we are lucky we can also support those there on a voluntary basis, not all advocacy providers are able to do this as it is a greater level of support than the law states mandatory). It can be visiting care homes as a paid rep to find out people’s views of their care and ensuring that the homes are adhering to the law around deprivation of liberty, or requesting reviews or initiating legal processes if the placement is no longer suitable or the person is objecting.  It can also be helping a team make a best interest decision and ensuring that they consider the persons views as an IMCA. This can mean ensuring that all less restrictive options have been properly trialled and that attempts have been made to mitigate risk without heading immediately to a more restrictive option, such as a care home as it may be easier and less risk. We sometimes have to remind professionals about positive risk taking and the law is always there to support this.

What has been their greatest success in the role? 

 I would say my greatest success in a role has been supporting a client as a paid rep who had been assessed as lacking capacity. I suspected they had regained capacity which was opposed to the social workers opinion. By following legal procedures and using safeguards to protect people in this position, they were assessed as having capacity and were no longer subject to a Deprivation of Liberty and were free to return home.

You can learn more about advocacy by visiting our Advocacy Service page here . There is also lots of information about  Advocacy on National Mind’s website.