Gwenda Thomas, Deputy Minister for Social Services is to be congratulated for producing a written statement called Framework for Advocacy indicating her commitment to table an amendment to the Social Services and Well Being Bill (Wales).
OPAAL has a long history of working closely with members in Wales to promote and expand advocacy provision for people in Wales and warmly welcomes this important amendment to the bill. David Camerons’ government would do well to emulate this development for the people of England.
The statement recognises that there are many people who advocate for individuals to ensure they have their voice heard for example; teachers, social workers, community nurses, carers, colleagues, family and friends. However there are times when because of a person’s capacity, the environment or
circumstances they find themselves in, the individual does not feel empowered to use their voice to ensure that they are safe, or that they have a voice in what matters to them about their daily life or where they can get care or support. When this happens having access to an independent advocate who can represent them and be their voice to communicate their views and wishes freely and directly is critical.
The bill recognises the important role that an advocate has in supporting and helping people at particularly difficult or vulnerable times and there is legislation in place to ensure these individuals have an enforceable right to representation. The amendment calls for the extension of provision of statutory advocacy, in particular for the provisions listed below:
1. For regulations to place duties on local authorities to make advocacy available in prescribed circumstances for example, people with complex needs who may not have the capability or wider family or community networks to advocate on their behalf in decisions about their care.
2. For regulations to require that independent advocacy is provided to people when the local authority is investigating a concern of risk or abuse.
3. Requiring local authorities to promote and inform people of their right to advocacy, including self- funders.
4. Requiring registered care home providers to inform people in their care about the availably of advocacy services by the local authority.
Gwenda Thomas and OPAAL members share the view that that legislation alone will not realise a vision for inclusive communities that empowers all people to have voice and control of their care. Professionals and others across all sectors of care (not advocates alone) have a fundamental role in promoting and better responding to ensure the views and wishes of people are heard within day to day practice. In short, advocating for people who need care and support is a responsibility that falls to each of us in the different guises and roles we take in life with family, friends, community and in our professional lives.