Failure to meet needs and refer for Independent Advocacy results in a local authority payout of £60,000 The failure of a local authority (LA) to meet the assessed needs of a woman for five years has resulted in a payout of £60,000. The woman, who has autism, a severe anxiety disorder and other mental health needs, was awarded the compensation when the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found that delaying the agreed package of support had caused her ‘significant difficulty and avoidable distress’. The LA had earlier identified that the woman needed formal support to help her to manage tasks such as cooking and cleaning, and access to mainstream services to help her cope with high levels of anxiety. However, delays and lack of action by Bradford Council resulted in a severe and adverse effect on her life and caused her to bring a formal complaint against the LA. There were several aspects to this case. The LA failed to communicate effectively with this person and made no ‘reasonable adjustments’ to do so; which denied her right under the Equality Act 2010. Also missing from this process was the person’s right to access Independent Advocacy. The LA had not considered this obligation (under the Care Act) to support the planning process. It was a perfect storm. An individual who needed help to communicate her thoughts, wishes and views was ignored, and an Advocate who could have helped her navigate her way through the process was denied their role. Independent advocacy supports people to participate fully in health and social care matters, using a variety of communication tools and skills. Our Advocates are experts at placing people at the heart of the health and social care process and are trained to communicate in a variety of ways. They listen to and reassure the person and will thoroughly explain what their rights are and help the person to resolve their issues. Advocates actively work to help people live the lives they want to live and access the services that can help them do just that. The mere involvement of an Advocate, independent of the LA or health services, goes a long to reassure a person and can alleviate any further stress and anxiety. Throughout a process which is challenging to navigate alone, particularly when a person has additional needs, an Advocate is in that person’s corner. Being ignored is never a nice feeling for anyone, but in this case, it caused the person significant distress, affected her quality and life and resulted in a legal challenge that would have been costly to all parties in so many ways. This case serves as a reminder of how important access to high-quality advocacy is and how it can prevent avoidable distress for people. Advocacy helps people to feel valued, heard and empowered. It helps them to know and uphold their rights. This case sends a clear message to LAs about their legal obligation and their duty of care for their citizens. It’s a message for all LAs. Our Advocates are here, right now, to take referrals. They can identify and guide providers about the type of advocacy the person may need; they are experts in this field. We are here 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. Call us on 0300 323 0965, or make a referral here.