VoiceAbility | Advocacy for people with a learning disability and…
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Advocacy for people with a learning disability and autistic people

There is serious concern and anger about the experiences of some people with a learning disability and autistic people in mental health inpatient services.

Around 2,000 people continue to be held in mental health facilities despite the heightened risks of abuse and neglect and lack of therapeutic benefit. Some people can be held for decades facing a system that is unable to support them.

Statutory independent advocacy services are an important resource for people with a learning disability and autistic people. Advocacy can help enable more person-centred care, challenge overly restrictive practices and use safeguarding processes to protect individuals where there are serious concerns.

However, the Care Quality Commission’s ‘Out of Sight - Who Cares’ report found the quality of support is too variable and sometimes advocacy is absent altogether.

To address this problem, the Department of Health and Social care should establish a nationally commissioned, specialist advocacy service. This would provide more effective and consistent support for people with a learning disability and autistic people in mental health in-patient services. Given the urgency and complexity of the support people need, DHSC must be responsible and accountable for commissioning this specialist advocacy service.

In this short policy paper, VoiceAbility sets out the case why a nationally commissioned model is the best way to support people effectively. This policy position builds on a previous paper by Jonathan Senker, chief executive of VoiceAbility and Kate Mercer of Kate Mercer Training which set out the critical ingredients for delivering, managing, and commissioning effective advocacy in these contexts.