Commissioning and providing mental health advocacy for African and Caribbean men

Providing advocacy services: Translating principles into practice

1. Culturally appropriate advocacy

It is self-evident that advocacy services have to be culturally sensitive. It means:

2. Independence from statutory provision

Independence from service provision is a guiding principle for the majority of mental health advocacy services, reflected in the standards and guidelines for mental health advocacy. It is important to qualify this as independence from statutory provision, as provision for African and Caribbean men is often provided as part of a broader range of services, developed by community organisations.

3. Increasing access

A proactive approach is needed to engage with African and Caribbean men on their terms. This means developing advocacy services that are accessible to – and visible in – the local community. Strategies to increase access can be further developed by engaging service users and the community in the process. In addition, the following strategies are important:

4. Promoting choice

Choice is an important principle. However organisations often find themselves constrained by capacity and, as a consequence, unable to offer real choices. Service users often (but not always) express a preference for choice in terms of ethnicity and gender. Some men will also have definite preferences in terms of sexual orientation or whether the advocate has experience of using mental health services. However, it is also clear that the quality of relationship between advocate and partner is important.

Choice is a particularly pressing issue in secure services, where access to more broadly-based community resources can be severely limited. Advocacy provider organisations contracted to serve secure mental health units should be staffed appropriately, to take account of the over-representation of African and Caribbean men in these services.

Ideally there should be the opportunity to access different types of advocacy and at least the potential for self-advocacy, casework and collective advocacy.

5. Promoting choice and protecting rights

Advocacy needs to be available at times when African and Caribbean men are facing critical decisions. This applies particularly at the following times:

6. Promoting self-empowerment

A major aim of advocacy is the empowerment and self-determination of individual advocacy partners. This will be facilitated by:

7. Ensuring competence and capacity to deliver

Advocacy providers need to ensure that they have the capacity to provide a quality service. This means:

8. Monitoring and evaluation

Advocacy providers need to ensure that data on service usage by ethnicity are routinely monitored and evaluated. In addition, data on outcomes needs to be collected and the previous section on outcomes provides a basis for negotiation with commissioners.