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Advocacy Groups

Volume 407: debated on Thursday 19 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health what discussions he has had with (a) the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and (b) representatives of the lottery funding bodies about securing funding for advocacy groups. [119248]

No discussions have taken place with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. It is for voluntary organisations to seek funding from other sources and other Government Departments, such as the community fund.The advocacy funding programme announced in Valuing People includes money to support development workers who work with existing advocacy groups to help them strengthen their services and also encourage the setting up of new ones. This could include giving advice on identifying possible funding sources.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans the Department has to fund citizens' advocacy groups, other than through the British Institute of Learning Disability; and if he will make a statement. [119249]

We announced in our report on learning disability, "Making Change Happen" (HC514-II), published in April 2003, that the implementation support fund would continue until March 2006. The fund will support the same areas of work as at present. The learning disability task force, which has members drawn from both the self and citizen advocacy movements, will be involved in discussions about the detailed use of the support fund.Mental health policies also focus on the use of advocacy. The draft Mental Health Bill, published on 25 June 2002, provides for the first time that specialist mental health advocacy must be available for all patients being treated under compulsory powers and their nominated persons. This new duty ensures that patients can have the help of specialist advocacy when it is most needed. There are also proposals in the draft Bill for safeguards, including access to advocacy, for some adult patients who have a long-term incapacity to consent and who are in a hospital or nursing home receiving treatment for a serious mental disorder.The Department is funding, to the value of £90,000 over three years, United Kingdom Advocacy Network (UKAN) to promote free and independent advocacy for every mental health service user; to keep user groups and advocacy projects in touch with each other; to promote the involvement of users in planning and running mental health services; and to develop standards in independent advocacy whereby they are establishing programmes of regional training courses for advocates. UKAN also employs a worker to work specifically on advocacy issues affecting black and minority ethnic groups.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to give adults with communications difficulties the right to representation by (a) a citizen's advocate and (b) another responsible individual; and if he will make a statement. [119252]

We consider it important that efforts are made by health and social care bodies to ensure that people with communications difficulties can make themselves understood and can understand what is being said to them. There are a number of ways of achieving this, including citizen advocacy, but we have no plans for imposing a particular pattern of service provision in this area.

As part of the implementation of the "Valuing People" White Paper, we announced the creation of two new funds, the Implementation Support Fund and the Learning Disability Development Fund, to provide central support for key aspects of the strategy. Money from the Implementation Support Fund is being used to support and develop self and citizen advocacy projects across the country. Two voluntary organisations, the British Institute of Learning Disabilities (BILD) and Values Into Action (VIA) are running separate schemes to develop and fund citizen advocacy and self advocacy respectively on the Department's behalf. Both organisations have steering groups to oversee the projects and to ensure fairness in the way the funds are allocated.

The draft Mental Health Bill, published on 25 June 2002, provides for the first time that specialist mental health advocacy must be available for all patients being treated under compulsory powers and their nominated persons. This new duty ensures that patients can have the help of specialist advocacy when it is most needed. There are also proposals in the draft Bill for safeguards, including access to advocacy, for some adult patients who have a long-term incapacity to consent and who are in a hospital or nursing home receiving treatment for a serious mental disorder.

Those subject to compulsory powers under mental health legislation have need of effective advocacy services. Some may temporarily lose the freedom to make the choices they might otherwise make. Others, because of long-term mental incapacity, may not be able to make informed choices about their care and treatment.