Scottish advocacy organisations struggling to meet demand
Scottish advocacy organisations express concern that increasingly limited resources mean they are unable to respond to the needs of vulnerable citizens.
“Advocacy helps to safeguard peoples’ rights and supports people to have control and choice in their lives. Our research gives cause for grave concern about reducing access to advocacy for many of the most vulnerable people in our society.”
Shaben Begum MBE, Director Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance
Findings from the SIAA’s biennial report on funding and provision of advocacy in Scotland shows that in the 2013-2014 year over 27,000 people accessed independent advocacy, an increase of 8% over the 2011-2012 year. Funding for 65% of independent advocacy organisations had either decreased or remained static. Limited resources and increased demand has led to the introduction of waiting lists, lengthy waits and some being turned away as advocacy organisations struggle to cope.
The Mental Health (Care & Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 gives everyone, of any age, with a mental disorder (mental health issue, learning disability, personality disorder, dementia) a right to independent advocacy support. Almost half of advocacy organisations report having a Service Level Agreement or contract which requires them to prioritise people facing compulsory measures e.g. detention, Community Treatment Order or Mental Health Tribunal. This means that those who have a statutory right to independent advocacy but are not subject to compulsory measures may not be able to access that right.
The demand for advocacy is set to further increase with the real impacts of welfare reform becoming apparent, already 87% of advocacy organisations have reported receiving significant increases in referrals relating to aspects of welfare reform. This will put further strain on the already limited resources of advocacy organisations resulting in the most vulnerable people in our society being unable to access advocacy.
“Independent advocacy is a crucial right guaranteed in the Mental Health (Care & Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003. Everyone with mental health problems and learning disabilities must be able to access independent advocacy to help them negotiate support that reflects their wishes and minimise the need for compulsory measures. The findings show significant resource pressures affecting access to advocacy whilst demand continues to rise”.
Colin McKay, Director Mental Welfare Commission