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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 and 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 in 2019 and the current contract will expire this year. The Council, in conjunction with partners and people with lived experience, has undertaken a procurement exercise to recommission the advocacy service. The new contract will go live on the 1st of July 2024.

All-Age Advocacy Provision  
Current spend (p.a.) £1.1 Million
Placements per advocacy genre 2020/21  
Statutory advocacy:  
Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) 626
Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy (IMCA) 666
Paid Relevant Person Representative (RPR) 696
Independent Health Complaints Advocacy (IHCA) 207
Independent Care Act Advocacy (ICAA) 410
Independent Advocacy for Children and Young People 66
Non-Statutory Advocacy Placements 2020/21  
Peer and Citizen Advocacy 32
Generic 407
Child Protection Cases (support for parents whose children are subject to child protection) 11
Total Advocacy Placements 2020/21 2,853

The information shown in the table(s) above is correct as of 31st March 2024.

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 re-commissioning process to secure a replacement advocacy provision following the expiry of the current service, the Council has reviewed the performance and benefits of the current model and its statutory responsibilities in relation to advocacy as part of the formal options appraisal. The Council has engaged with people with lived experience as well as the current market to determine that the preferred service model will be a lead provider operating a single point of access with specialist advocates in order to deliver an Essex-wide all age service for all advocacy types.  

The future advocacy service will continue to deliver each statutory and non-statutory element detailed above with the following additional non-statutory service:

  • Advocacy for the parents of children subject to, or undergoing an assessment for, a Child in Need or Child Protection Plan.

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. While the exact detail of the legislative changes are not yet clear the contract does allow for some extra capacity if required. If additional capacity and finance beyond this are required, this will be subject to separate governance.

Our current area of focus is:

  • To respond to anticipated legislative changes in this area.
  • To mobilise the new advocacy contract with emphasis on the promotion of advocacy to increase awareness of the service and allow seamless access to all those who are eligible.
Last updated: 31/03/2024