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What is Independent Advocacy

Changes to Mental Health Laws

The Scottish Mental Health Law Review may lead to changes in laws that affect people who have mental health issues. The review began with the aim to improve the rights and protections of people with a ‘mental disorder’. It also aimed to remove barriers to those caring for the health and welfare of people with a mental disorder. ‘Mental disorder’, according to the review, can mean mental health issues or learning disabilities or autism. It could also apply to people who have had a brain injury or stroke.

Since February 2020 the review has been looking at how laws that affect people with mental health issues have developed. This includes compulsory detention and care and treatment. Anne from CAPS contributed to one of the working groups. The review invited people to give their experiences of the Mental Health Act and CAPS worked with a group of people to make a response. You can read it here.

CAPS has recently submitted evidence to the third and final stage of the review. This stage asked for responses to proposals that focused on Independent Advocacy. Providing Independent Advocacy is what CAPS does so we were keen to respond. Independent Advocacy is all about people having the right to a voice: addressing barriers and imbalances of power and ensuring that human rights are recognised, respected, and secured. Read more about Independent Advocacy.

Definition of Independent Advocacy

CAPS management committee responded to the consultation. They were, first of all, keen that the review took on board the correct definition of Independent Advocacy. They stressed that ‘An Independent Advocacy organisation only provides Independent Advocacy. All the activities it undertakes are about providing, promoting, supporting, and advocating for Independent Advocacy. “Independence” means that it does not provide any other services and is structurally, financially, and psychologically separate from other organisations and interests’. In the past, those who commission Independent Advocacy have not always used this definition. But CAPS believes that its independence is crucial to being able to make sure people’s own wishes and voices are heard.

A set of scales representing justice, against a pink blue and green background

What’s missing?

CAPS’ response also highlighted some things that are missing from current provision of Independent Advocacy. CAPS said that we were aware of gaps, for example in Independent Advocacy for children and young people. ‘We provide Independent Advocacy to children and young people experiencing the Children’s Hearings system. This is funded by the Scottish Government and a very good model of ensuring coverage across all of Scotland whilst ensuring local provision by trusted community based Independent Advocacy organisations. However, there is no funding for children and young people out with the Children’s Hearings system who have mental health issues and are living in the community in the areas we work in, i.e. Midlothian and East Lothian’.

The review also included questions around whether or not there should be qualifications and a national register for Independent Advocacy workers. It asked about evaluation and quality assurance for Independent Advocacy organisations.

Equality and diversity

There were also questions about equality and diversity. CAPS welcomed the review’s recommendations for more resources and support for Independent Advocacy organisations to work with ‘groups facing particular barriers in Scottish society’. CAPS noted that ‘since Independent Advocacy addresses barriers and imbalances of power, and ensures that an individual’s human rights are recognised, respected, and secured; providing a service focused on diversity, equality and inclusion is crucial’.

Find out more about Independent Advocacy

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