New support for Independent Mental Health Advocacy

11 March 2015

Briefings, reports and films from SCIE and UCLan

Being detained in hospital or on being on a Community Treatment Order can be a confusing and distressing experience. An Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA) can help by supporting people to get their opinions heard and to make sure that they know their rights under the law. However, research reveals that people with mental health issues don’t always have access an IMHA. Many people with mental health problems are not getting the independent advice and support which is their statutory right. Service users that need IMHAs the most (for instance, older people, people with learning disabilities and people from BME groups) are the most likely to miss out on having access to one.

Twelve new resources are launched today, at an event at the House of Lords, by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) and the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan). Briefings, reports and films give an overview of the current situation regarding IMHAs and provide everything you need to know to improve access to, and to provide, high-quality IMHA services.

In 2012, UCLan published a review of IMHA services. Entitled ‘The Right to be heard’, the review found variations in the access to, and uptake of, IMHAs. It found that only half of those eligible for an IMHA in England actually had access to one. The Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) 2015 annual report of the Mental Health Act found that 20% of people sectioned in hospital did not have their rights properly explained to them.

The new resources are:

  • Briefing: Understanding IMHA for service users
  • Easy read version: Understanding IMHA for service users
  • Social Care TV film; Understanding IMHA for service users
  • Briefing: Understanding IMHA for mental health staff
  • Social Care TV film: Understanding IMHA for mental health staff
  • Briefing: Commissioning Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) services in England, 10 Top tips for commissioners
  • What does a good IMHA service look like?
  • Briefing: Improving equality of access to IMHA
  • Report: Improving equality of access to IMHA
  • Social Care TV film: Improving equality of access to IMHA
  • Improving Access to Independent Mental Health Advocacy for Providers of Mental Health Services
  • Report: How to measure the outcomes of IMHA

SCIE’s Chair, Lord Michael Bichard, who is hosting today’s event says:

“Improving access to IMHA and the quality of IMHA are important and complex issues; issues which no one body can solve by themselves. Advocacy providers, commissioners, regulators, central government, mental health professionals and service users need to work together to ensure that everyone who is eligible for an IMHA gets to see one. Then, when they do access an IMHA, they should receive a high quality service - because everyone has the right to heard.”

The resources have been co-produced with peer researchers and other service users, so that they draw on people’s direct experiences. Users were involved in a number of roles including as advisory group members, writers, film-makers, editors and project lead.

Survivor consultant June Sadd was a peer researcher for the UCLan ‘Right to be Heard’ review. June says:

“I see, in effective advocacy provision, the ‘seeds of empowerment’ for people with mental health and other social care issues. I know from my experiences that access to an IMHA would have been invaluable when I suddenly found myself detained in a mental health unit, in great distress with no understanding of my rights, or what was going on.”

UCLan’s Dr Julie Ridley, Reader in Applied Social Sciences and Co-project Lead, says:

“The latest CQC figures show increased rates of detention and Community Treatment Orders, meaning increased demand for IMHA services. Our research reveals that the reasons qualifying patients are not using IMHA services point to a lack of awareness or understanding of the service, and thus how it can help. Urgent action is required to increase the quality and the accessibility of IMHA provision, and the resources we have produced will help to promote it more widely among service users and mental health professionals.”

Access to an IMHA can ensure people’s rights are respected, can greatly enhance the service user experience and can improve staff / service user relations and support prevention.

  • Until 2012, IMHAs were commissioned by Primary Care Trusts. Now responsibility for commissioning IMHAs is with local authorities.
  • The project has been commissioned by the Department of Health.

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