Since the release of the Coronavirus Act 2020, I've been asking myself a few questions. Particularly where does this leave the person amongst the weakening of statutory duties in terms of providing care and support? I expected many unhappy people fighting for their needs to be met and I thought advocacy would be needed now more than ever. What I didn’t expect, and maybe this was naive of me, was a decrease in professional statutory advocacy referrals.

I completely appreciate the need for key workers to focus on frontline duties in the fight against COVID-19, and for your efforts, I salute you. I do worry however, that people’s voices aren't being heard, that we're not establishing people’s wishes, and for some, it's too late. Our access to hospital wards and residential homes has become more limited in the effort to minimise the spread of COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean we're not here to provide essential advocacy support. The number of fatalities in hospitals is increasing, yet we've seen a decline in referrals made to our service. Why is this?

There are important issues that need to be addressed, besides the critical treatment being provided for people. The issues arising are around access to important information, advice, entitlements, and an individual's rights! For those of you who support individuals on a day to day basis, you will have many conversations with that person.

I hope that you will take time to think about the care and treatment you're providing and whether you've asked any of the following questions today. Did you facilitate the conversation about making an advanced statement around proposed treatment? Did you provide information on making a Lasting Power of Attorney? Did you have that difficult conversation about end of life wishes and funeral arrangements? Did you talk about the Do Not Attempt Resuscitation decision that you think needs to be made. Did you think about whether that person was entitled to advocacy? Did some or all of these questions cross your mind?

If they didn’t, that’s ok. We cannot change past practice; however, we can control how we do things in the future to improve outcomes for the individuals we support.

Advocacy is a statutory service for a reason. It's not a choice or down to whether you feel it’s beneficial for the person. The person has that right and professionals need to facilitate access to statutory advocacy because it is the law. Your legal duty. Did I say that already?

There are different types of statutory advocacy available; I’m sure you're familiar with Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy, Care Act Advocacy and Mental Health Advocacy. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the ins and outs of each provision or legislative act in relation to advocacy. What is important, is that you understand that the person has a right to access it.

Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone to your local advocacy provider and ask what type of advocacy the person may need; they can guide you because they are the experts in this field. What’s important is that you remember advocacy is there for the person; to facilitate those important views and ensure that their wishes are heard and respected, which in turn upholds their fundamental human rights. You must always remember that the person may have a legal right to advocacy and that advocates have the time to fully explore what the person wants, or would have wanted. They can provide you with information to help assist the decision-making process, if you need to decide on behalf of the person what’s in their best interest. Remember, we share a mutual interest in supporting the person to achieve the best possible outcome in that given situation.

Make a referral here