Advocacy during coronavirus

There has probably never been a more important time for people to be able to get independent advocacy. We hope our resources will help advocates, professionals and everyone who relies on advocacy support.

Jonathan Senker, chief executive, VoiceAbility

Legal duties to refer eligible people for advocacy still apply and advocacy is continuing. View resources for advocates, professionals, care providers, people who use services and their families.

Care Act Easements template letters

If a local authority decides that it must use the Care Act Easements then it should communicate this decision to people who use services, carers and service providers. We believe that it is very important that people who use services, advocacy organisations and service providers understand what is happening in their area if the Easements are being used. This will help these organisations to provide the best support to people and will help those of us who use services or are carers to know what we can still expect.

We have also heard from people who are worried that their local authority is not following the Care Act because of coronavirus, even though the local authority has not taken a decision to use the Easements.

We have produced two template letters to help advocates, care providers, people who use services and their families to get information from local authorities about what is happening.

Letter 1 has been written to get more information when Care Act Easements have been activated by the local authority.

Letter 2 has been written for when the Care Act Easements have not been activated locally but it appears that actions are being taken as if they have.

Find out more about Care Act Easements

Resources for health and social care professionals

Health and social care professionals’ legal duties to refer eligible people for advocacy still apply. There is nothing in the Coronavirus Act that could suspend people’s rights to advocacy under the Mental Health Act 1983, Mental Capacity Act 2005 or the Care Act 2014. Our advocates are key workers and are ready and able to provide advocacy by phone, video call, or, where essential, in person.

Health and social care professionals are receiving confusing and inconsistent information about whether the coronavirus crisis affects people’s rights to advocacy. This means that the rights of some of the most disadvantaged people in our society are seriously at risk, because they may not be referred for the advocacy support that they are legally entitled to. To support professionals, we are sharing resources below to ensure that they are aware of their legal duties and can refer their clients for advocacy wherever it’s required. 

Mythbuster

This guide debunks the myths and misunderstandings that could prevent people from getting access to advocacy during coronavirus. It will be useful to advocates, health and social care professionals, people who use health and social care services and their relatives and friends.

The mythbuster concept was developed in collaboration with advocacy organisations from around the country, and co-written by us, Kate Mercer of Kate Mercer Associates and Gail Petty from NDTi.

The NDTi have worked with colleagues to produce an Easy Read version of the guide.

Template letter to raise concerns about restrictions on care

We have seen letters sent by GP practices to care home residents, imposing blanket Do Not Attempt CPR (DNACPR) notices or informing them that if they become ill a hospital admission will not be sought.

Clinicians have a duty to consult with patients, or members of their family, before completing a DNACPR notice and placing this on their records. This is the case unless the clinician thinks the patient or family member will be so distressed by being consulted that it might cause them physical or psychological harm. Nothing in the coronavirus legislation repeals this case law. The BMA, RCGPs and CQC have released a statement that affirms this and makes clear that advanced planning and DNACPR decisions must only be made on an individual basis.

We are seriously concerned about the implications that these letters have on people’s legal and human rights and are actively working with our clients on an individual basis to address these. In this work we are using the template letter below where appropriate, and we are sharing the template here in case it is of assistance to other people and organisations. We are also working with partners across health and social care to ensure that guidance provided to clinicians is effective, proportionate and legal.

Practicing advocacy during coronavirus

On 17 March 2020 we created internal guidance for VoiceAbility staff about advocacy during coronavirus. We are now sharing it publicly in the hope that it might be of some assistance to others, especially advocacy organisations, and ultimately to people who rely on the support we all provide. It was written in good faith based on the best information available at a particular point in time. No liability is accepted for any adverse consequences of reliance upon it. We welcome feedback to CV19@voiceability.org