Independent Advocacy is a powerful tool to support people to have their feelings and wishes heard and their fundamental human rights protected.

With the current level of Covid-19 community transmission increasing and updated national guidance recommending care homes cease all non-essential visiting, it is a perfect time to highlight that Independent Advocates are essential visitors and share how we work in partnership with care providers to ensure our visits are well planned, safe and effective.

Independent Advocates, including RPRs, must have contact with people to be able to fulfil their statutory duty. We must gather people’s feelings, wishes, values and beliefs and represent their views to other services and agencies. For example, social workers, consultants, and solicitors.

On occasions our contact with people can be managed remotely however, this is not always the case and face-to-face visits remain a necessary option for Advocates.

 

Working in Partnership

Independent Advocates work in partnership with care providers to plan the best ways for us to engage with the people we work with. We appreciate the immense pressures care homes have been under during the pandemic and we work to balance the need for our contact with people with the pressures on care homes and risks of Covid-19.

Independent Advocates will always contact care providers in advance to notify them that we are involved and explain the specific advocacy role. We will work with providers and gather their views on the best way to engage with the person. For example, the person may have a smart phone and have been using this to regularly communicate effectively with their family. This method could be explored as an option however, if the person has never had advocacy before, a face to face visit may be the best option to conduct an introductory visit.

Care providers usually know the person very well and can give us insight into making sure we are able to engage with the person. For example, if Bernard’s usual routine included a sleep straight after his lunch, then we would not plan to meet with him at this time. Or if Betty was known to be able to hold a conversation for longer than an hour after her morning medication, then we would plan to visit then.

We gather all information and complete a robust risk assessment process which concludes whether a face to face visit is essential and how this should take place e.g. a socially distanced garden visit and what level of PPE. Advocates can share a copy of the risk assessment for a person’s record on request.

 

Looking ahead

As we ride the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with the usual winter pressures on services, partnership working between advocates and care providers is more important than ever. Independent Advocates can act as a sounding board for Care providers; providing information and guidance on human rights, Mental Capacity legislation and processes. We can share resources and raise issues on behalf of people which in turn supports care providers to be listened to and feel supported.

 

Partnership in action

Bret, a man with Dementia who struggled to manage his care and support needs, had been discharged from hospital for respite in a care home. Bret was waiting for a care package to be arranged so he could go home; he was told this would take four weeks. Three months later, Bret was still in respite; he was depressed, missing his neighbours, and worrying about his home. He worried that his home would be broken into and his precious railway track vandalised.

An Advocate visited the care home to meet someone else he was working with. The Advocate met with the care home manager and the care home manager asked the Advocate for advice about Bret’s situation. The manager explained that Bret was deeply unhappy, and she had been contacting his social worker to find out what was happening. She explained that the social worker was not returning her calls, she feels frustrated that she can’t give Bret more information and uncomfortable that Bret was clearly unhappy and wanting to go home. The Advocate advised the Care Home manager to make a referral for advocacy support, explored a potential Deprivation of Liberty and discussed raising a safeguarding concern.

The advocacy referral was made, and the Advocate visited Bret. Bret explained his worries and concerns and gave consent for the advocate and Bret to contact the social worker together. The advocate supported Bret by compiling a letter to the social worker highlighting Bret’s concerns and requesting an urgent review.

The social worker received the letter and contacted Bret, the advocate, and the care home manger to arrange a review. At the review, the Advocate supported Bret to share his feelings and wishes to go home. The care home manager was able to share her feelings of frustration on Bret’s behalf. The social worker agreed to arrange home care, occupational therapy support and home visits to support Bret to go home at the earliest opportunity.

The Care Home manager was grateful for the advocacy support to help Bret move forward with his wishes. And two weeks later, Bret returned home.

 

Together is better

Communication is the key to effective partnership working. It is important to remember that we all have a role to play in a person’s life and those roles will only complement each other for the greater good of supporting the person’s feelings, wishes , values and beliefs to be heard.

To make a referral for Independent Advocacy in Cumbria and Teesside, click here.

Supporting Government guidance can be found here: