Care Act Commissioning Survey
The Care Act 2014 for England came into force in April 2015. In order to monitor commissioning of independent advocacy, the Advocacy Action Alliance commissioned the Mental Health Foundation to undertake an online monitoring survey of advocacy providers. The survey gives rise to a deep concern about the short term and inadequate funding arrangements which are revealed to be in place in many local authorities for independent advocacy under the Care Act.
The Care Act 2014 for England came into force in April 2015 and introduced new responsibilities for local authorities to provide independent advocacy for people experiencing substantial difficulty in being involved with care and support processes or safeguarding. In order to monitor commissioning of independent advocacy the Advocacy Action Alliance, a coalition of advocacy providers across England and Wales, commissioned the Mental Health Foundation to undertake an online monitoring survey of advocacy providers. VoiceAbility funded the survey, which had 101 responses, covered 72 local authority areas.
Almost two thirds (63%) of contracts for independent advocacy were for 12 months or less. Anecdotally, the report heard of some local authorities that had not commissioned any Care Act advocacy in time for April 2015 and required “nudging” by advocacy providers to set up a commissioning process.
- In the majority of reported cases (17 local authorities out of 21) the spend on independent advocacy was less than 60% of what the Local Government Association’s Care Act ‘Ready Reckoner’ had indicated it should be for 2015-16, and the average was less than 50%.
- 15 out of 29 responses reported that their contracts and contracts held by other organisations to provide advocacy had been reduced or ended since April 2015, suggesting a reduction in the provision of advocacy in many local authority areas.
The survey gives rise to a deep concern about the short term and inadequate funding arrangements which are revealed to be in place in many local authorities for independent advocacy under the Care Act. Advocacy under the Care Act is vital in protecting and upholding the rights of people affected by the Act with care and support needs. It is itself a statutory right. The poor access to advocacy that this survey indicates imperils those rights, undermines the proper implementation of the Care Act, and results in local authorities not fulfilling their statutory obligations and advocacy providers being unable to provide a comprehensive service to everyone who is entitled to it.
Better Care Funding
As an adjunct to the survey done by MHF, an analysis of Better Care Funding plans showed that:
- 62% gave no evidence that advocacy requirements under the Care Act had been included in the plan
- 18% had included advocacy and had factored in advocacy under the Care Act within this
- 17% had included advocacy for carers only
- 3% had included health advocacy but not advocacy under the Care Act.
Learning from experiences
As experience in setting up the IMCA service shows*, it takes investment, consistency in awareness raising and training over time to build up a new service, and enable it to become widely known and embedded.
We used this data to inform written evidence provided to the recent Public Accounts Committee inquiry into the costs of Care Act reforms to local government. If you'd like to read this report, submitted by the Care and Support Alliance, you can download it here.