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The New Mental Health Act: An Easy Read Guide

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04 Independent advocacy

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  • What does the law say?
  • What is independent advocacy?
  • Why might I need it?
  • When might I need it?
  • Who will help me get it?
  • Where can I get more information?

What does the law say?

Under the new Act people with learning disabilities and people with a mental illness have a right to independent advocacy. You do not have to be in hospital to get this right.

This means that you should be able to have an independent advocate and/or join an advocacy group if you want to.

What is independent advocacy?

Independent advocacy helps you to make your voice stronger and to have as much control as possible over your life.

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It is called independent because advocates and advocacy workers are separate from services. They do not work for hospitals, social work or other services.

There are different types of advocacy:

  • self advocacy: people come together in groups to speak up about things that are important to them. Self-advocacy groups try to change the way people feel about themselves and change other people's attitudes. They also try to change services and policies. This is also called collective advocacy.
  • professional advocacy: an independent advocate works with you to help you sort out your problem. The advocate might be paid or be a volunteer.
  • citizen advocacy: an ordinary member of the public gets to know you well over a long period of time. They stand alongside you and help you to get what you need.

Why might I need independent advocacy?

Some people need support to speak up, to understand what is being said and to make decisions. Many people find that when they feel ill or upset they are not as good at saying what they want and they need support to speak up.

Moira has a learning disability. She wants some help for an important meeting with the housing department. Her advocate, Joe, helps her decide what she wants to say and goes to the meeting with her to help her to say it.

When might I need independent advocacy?

There are some times when it is especially important for you to get advocacy support.

1. In hospital
2. on an order which says that:

  • you must stay in hospital
  • you can only stay out of hospital on certain conditions
  • you can be given treatment even if you do not want it.

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Your doctors, nurses, social workers and mental health officers should make sure you know about independent advocacy and help you get it. They should make sure it is free.

They should give you accessible information (for example in large print).

3. Going to a Tribunal meeting

Selma's illness has got worse. Her mental health officer wants her to have treatment. Selma does not agree and her mental health officer asks the Tribunal to decide. He helps Selma find an independent advocate to help her give her views. The advocate helps Selma to say what she thinks at the tribunal meeting.

Mental health officer: a specially trained social worker who helps people who have a mental disorder. He/she should tell you about your rights and make sure you get the care you need.

Mental Health Tribunal: the organisation that decides about the compulsory treatment of people with mental disorder.

Where can I get more information?

You can find out more from:

  • People First (Scotland)
  • Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance
  • Your local social work and health services will tell you how to contact advocacy services near you.

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