Care Act Advocacy is all about ensuring certain people have help from an independent person to understand their options and have their say, when social services consider what care, support or protection they need.
Legislation called the Care Act (2014), makes it compulsory for local authorities to arrange this type of advocacy for free, to eligible people. At its simplest, the Care Act is about ensuring a person’s wellbeing is at the heart about any decisions about their life.
Since April 2015, Reading Borough Council has contracted us to coordinate the local Care Act Advocacy Service, in partnership with local charities that have experience of supporting people with a diverse range of needs, such as learning or physical disabilities or older age. We provide this service from the Reading Voice advocacy hub based at Reading Central Library.
The law says adults (or children about to become adults) qualify for help from a Care Act advocate if they meet three criteria:
1. Firstly, the person has to be going through one of these processes, arranged by social services at their local council:
- a needs assessment (to find out if the person has any need for care and support, regardless of who eventually funds this care)
- a review (which is done at least yearly to find out if the person’s care and support needs have changed)
- a carer’s assessment or review (to find out if a person acting as a carer has any care needs of their own or if these have changed)
- a safeguarding enquiry or review (to check if the person is at risk of, or has experienced abuse from somebody in their lives; abuse comes in many forms, such as physical, sexual, psychological, or financial).
2. Secondly, the same person must also face difficulties taking part in the process, because of communication or cognition needs. For example, a person with dementia might find it difficult to remember information they need to make a decision, while a person with a learning disability may need extra time and support to compare different care options to decide which is best for them.
3. Finally, to be eligible for this advocacy, the same person must not have anybody suitable, willing and able in their lives to help them understand their options and express their preferences. For example, they may have no family (or family living nearby), or it could be that the people they are close to, have different opinions about how the person should live their life.
Eligible people must be referred for an advocate by their social worker.
The social worker should check with the person if they would like an advocate and get permission to share any background information with the advocacy provider.
If members of the public or their relatives contact our service directly to request an advocate, we will usually advise them to raise the idea of having an advocate, with the eligible person’s social worker.
Social workers must first telephone Healthwatch Reading (during the hours of 9am-4.30pm, Monday to Friday) to discuss their referral, on 0118 937 2295. Our advocacy services manager Carl Borges is the main contact, but all our team can deal with initial queries.
This phone call ensures that we understand the potential client’s needs and circumstances so we can match them with the most suitable advocate.
This conversation also ensures that we signpost any ineligible referrals elsewhere. In 2016-17, around 30 requests made to our service for Care Act Advocates were not suitable, as the person was entitled to other types of statutory advocacy (such as ensuring an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate is arranged for a person who is judged as having no capacity to decide where they live, and a decision is being made about the person moving into a nursing or care home).
We have prepared our own useful fact sheet for professionals, explaining other types of statutory advocacy.
Social workers can also access Care Act advocacy eligibility information from the Social Care Institute for Excellence.
We can visit Reading social services teams and other professionals on request, to explain Care Act Advocacy in more detail.
A Care Act advocate is a person who is specially trained to empower people to have their say about their lives.
Advocates are independent, which means they are not employed by social services, the NHS, or any other organisation making final decisions about the care or support a person needs.
- Focus solely on what the person wants
- Spend time with the person to build up trust
- Not be judgemental – they do not tell people what to do
- Use the person’s preferred communication method
- Explore what ‘wellbeing’ means to the person – such as daily care, their health, friends and family, where they live, activities, looking after others or how to stay safe
- Ensure the person has all the information they need and understand on all their options
- Encourage and empower the person to make their own choices
- Help the person communicate to others what’s important to them
- Look out for their rights
- Challenge discrimination
- Celebrate the diversity of people.
Care Act Advocates do not carry out any care tasks, do not act as mediators in disputes, or carry out mental capacity assessments. Please discuss the advocate’s role with us if you are unsure.
The law says Care Act advocates must be working towards a special qualification known as City and Guilds Level 3 National Qualification in Independent Advocacy. This involves four classroom training days from plus 28 assignments or workforce observations.
Reading Voice advocates must also:
- be DBS-checked
- have undergone Level 1 safeguarding training
- follow the nationally recognised Code of Practice for Advocates
- follow policies of Healthwatch Reading, which oversees Reading Voice, such as those for lone working, and equality and diversity.
The success of Reading Voice relies on the diversity of local advocates with expertise in supporting people with different needs.
Charities who are part of this partnership, nominate specific staff to undergo the Care Act Advocacy training and make them available to support eligible clients.
Current members of Reading Voice who provide advocates are:
Care Act Advocacy in action: case studies
Case study: Giving Paul a voice about life in his care home
Paul lives in a care home and has Parkinson’s. He has been down and has been saying he wants to move to another home. His social worker arranges a Care Act advocate for him ahead of an upcoming care review.
His advocate visits him and finds he doesn’t want to talk much at first, so she keeps the visits short, but regular. Eventually he begins to trust her to talk about his wellbeing.
Paul tells the advocate he loves reading but his shaky hands caused by his condition make it hard to turn pages of books. The advocate describes other options (which haven’t been discussed with him previously), like audio books and discusses with staff how this could be arranged.
The advocate also observes that Paul is not fully dressed, his room feels cold and he says he feels chilly. The advocate raises this with staff.
Another thing the advocate notices is that Paul cannot reach his drinks and has no way to ask staff for help if they are not in the same room.
She has also noticed a fresh bruise on his face and makes a safeguarding referral so checks can be made to ensure he is being cared for safely. This eventually results in an occupational therapist working with the care home on a falls prevention plans.
The advocate drafts a ‘Wellbeing Plan’ for Paul, expressing in his own words, what would help improve his daily life. He checks it before agreeing to share it with the social worker and the care home. They begin to take steps to better meet Paul’s needs.
Feedback from social worker
“My experience of working with the advocates has been good. They have been tremendously client centred and have taken time to get to know the clients and work within their communication needs in a really positive way.”