I recently got a birthday card that said “The answer is football. The question is largely irrelevant”. Someone knows me very well. When people hear organisations talk about the need for more advocacy provision they may well suspect the same kind of failing. It doesn’t matter what the question is, we’ll tell you that the answer is advocacy.
So today I spent the day with the Care in Crisis lobby of parliament and taking part in the online #twobby. I met many inspirational people, heard challenging stories from people struggling to get the right social care, met and had a good discussion with my local MP and heard Paul Burstow talk about his plans for the Social Care White Paper. And I tried not to talk about advocacy too much, because the questions weren’t always about advocacy; they were usually about dignity, fairness, funding, appropriate services, connection to communities. Advocacy isn’t the answer to these questions, but it is a mechanism that informs those answers.
So when we hear that people need support to navigate the new care system, that people need support speaking up, that getting appropriate care is a constant battle, that people are afraid of complaining on behalf of relatives, that closed care systems breed abuse – well, advocacy is part of the answer. (If you don't believe me you may want to look at my previous post A Gap in Dignity and Rights.)
Paul Burstow spoke of a future where local authorities should be held to account within national frameworks of expectations. He has previously spoken of the role that advocacy plays in demonstrating that local authorities are meeting their equalities duties. Including a requirement to record the advocacy needs of a community in the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment would help local communities hold LAs to account on this; it would let us see the distance between should and is.
Then local communities would be able to check that there is at least one mechanism in place to address the real question; have we done enough to make sure that everyone's care needs will be met in a personal, appropriate and dignified way?