Essex County Council - Provider Hub
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Market Context

Advocacy services encompass the provision of support for vulnerable people to ensure their rights are upheld and their voice is/views are heard when key decisions that impact upon their life are being made. This includes supporting people to access information and services, facilitating their involvement in decisions regarding their lives; exploring their choices and options alongside ensuring that organisational procedures are being adhered to and implemented correctly.

Advocates are independent of health or social care services and can accompany individuals to meetings involving their care and support alongside corresponding agencies on their behalf.

People are legally entitled to advocacy support in some scenarios, for example supporting someone through a Care Act review if they would struggle to understand the information or struggle to ensure their views, wishes and feelings are expressed.

Essex County Council currently commissions a single advocacy service providing both statutory and non-statutory advocacy.  This service is delivered by Rethink and is available for all eligible children, young people and adults within the administrative boundaries of Essex (excluding the unitary authorities of Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock). The all-age advocacy hub encompasses the following services:

Statutory Services

  • Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy (IMCA)
  • Paid Relevant Person Representative (RPR)
  • Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA)
  • Independent Care Act Advocacy (ICAA)
  • Independent Health Complaints Advocacy (IHCA)
  • Independent Advocacy for Children and Young People

Non-statutory services

  • General Advocacy
  • Peer and Citizen Advocacy

In addition, the current advocacy service encompasses the provision of non-statutory community based, citizen advocacy to ensure that those individuals not eligible for statutory advocacy services can be supported to have their voices heard through the use of volunteers and the promotion of other low cost/no cost solutions.

This service was implemented following a procurement exercise in 2019 and the current contract will expire in 2024. The Council is due to consider the commissioning intentions for the next iteration of the advocacy provision. Further details regarding this process which is due to be conducted under a co-produced model will be published in due course.

All-Age Advocacy Provision  
Current spend (p.a.) £1,236,311
Placements per advocacy genre 2020/21  
Statutory advocacy:  
Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) 641
Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy (IMCA) 542
Paid Relevant Person Representative (RPR) 418
Independent Health Complaints Advocacy (IHCA) 199
Independent Care Act Advocacy (ICAA) 371
Independent Advocacy for Children and Young People 113
Non-Statutory Advocacy Placements 2020/21  
Peer and Citizen Advocacy 53
Generic 501
Child Protection Cases (support for parents whose children are subject to child protection) 15
Total Advocacy Placements 2020/21 2853

The information shown in the table(s) above is correct as of 30th September 2023

As detailed above, the current advocacy provision in Essex has been commissioned to secure a cohesive, single advocacy contract to secure a streamlined approach to advocacy. This service incorporates a single referral process with a consistent offer across all age groups, care groups and advocacy types.

During the forthcoming re-commissioning process to secure a replacement advocacy provision following the expiry of the current service, the Council will review the performance and benefits of this model and its statutory responsibilities in relation to advocacy as part of the formal options appraisal. This analysis is being conducted under a co-produced methodology incorporating feedback from internal and external stakeholders to inform the future direction of travel for the delivery of advocacy in the administrative boundaries of Essex. Further details of this process including information regarding potential engagement routes can be found in the “Current Areas of Focus” section below.

The Council enacted regular engagement with the current advocacy provider, Rethink, throughout the course of the emergency phases of the pandemic to secure an understanding of the current risks affecting service provision and consider suitable mitigation strategies. This approach identified several challenges including a reduction in social care referrals and issues for advocates in accessing hospitals and care homes and visiting people in their own homes due to COVID related restrictions.

The Council is aware of forthcoming legislative changes, including but not limited to, the introduction of Liberty Protection Standards and proposed reforms within the Mental Health sphere. These changes are likely to pose a substantive impact upon the approach and demand for advocacy services. The council is currently developing its understanding and of the requirements in response to these anticipated changes and will incorporate any requisite revisions to the scope of advocacy provision within the development of the new advocacy offer as outlined above.

Our current area of focus is:

  • To respond to anticipated legislative changes in this area.
  • As outlined above, the Council is currently completing the co-production phase of the commissioning cycle to ensure the service continues to meet the needs, desires and aspirations of the people it serves. Further details regarding this process will be published in due course.
Last updated: 30/09/2023