By Demi Houghton, LPS Lead, Advocacy Focus

My family have a background in social care and have supported family members who have been diagnosed with dementia so I am aware of what a minefield the social care system can be to navigate.

As a family,we had been involved with making important decisions about our relatives when they had lost capacity to do so. We realised how important it was that we were involved as often what the professionals were suggesting was the exact opposite of what they would have wanted.

From decisions about treatment, putting in place a Do Not Attempt Resuscitation order, or where they should live – the decision making never seemed to start by considering what the person would want, rather what the professionals felt was best. But what would have happened if we hadn’t been involved?

I quickly realised that Advocates have such a vital role in supporting people to make sure that very important decisions about their lives aren’t made without them being involved.

Before becoming an independent Advocate, I was at university studying law. I had gone in to my third year unsure of what I wanted to do after graduating, as I wasn’t sure that legal practice was suited to me, but knew that I wanted a career where I could use my knowledge to help people.

During my final year, I studied mental health law and found out about the work of Independent Advocates – a role I hadn’t been aware of before, but soon realised what important work they do. Advocates are the ones that speak up for people when they don’t have any family members to do so. We can support when family members who are feeling (understandably) overwhelmed by the system and don’t know where to turn..

I quickly realised that Advocates have such a vital role in supporting people to make sure that very important decisions about their lives aren’t made without them being involved.

I wanted to become an Advocate to support people to be heard and kept at the centre of any decisions that are made about their lives. I’ve been an Advocate for five years, but that time has flown by! Advocacy is a really rewarding role that allows me to apply my knowledge of the law to support people, uphold their rights and have their voice heard. I’m still really interested in the academic side of law and keep up to date with legal developments and with case law coming out of the Court of Protection.

When the Liberty Protection Safeguards were announced to replace the current Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards, I was keen to follow their development through Parliament to where we are now – eagerly awaiting the Code of Practice and the Regulations that will tell us what our advocacy role will look like under this new system.

This has led to an exciting career development for me, as I have taken on the role of LPS Lead here at Advocacy Focus. There is so much yet to find out about how the advocacy role will be different under DOLS, but we know that LPS will provide safeguards to more people that are deprived of their liberty – meaning that we are able to support and make a difference for many more people. Implementing LPS will be a challenge, but it’s one I’m looking forward to!

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