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Durham University

Department of Sociology

Completed Projects

Independent Specialist Advocacy in England and Wales: Recommendations for good practice

A research project of the Department of Sociology.


The White Paper, Reforming the Mental Health Act 2000, proposed that service users who are subject to the powers of a new Mental Health Act in England and Wales should have access to independent specialist advocacy services. To research how such a service could best be provided and delivered, the Department of Health commissioned a study of good practice in mental health advocacy.


To develop proposals for what specialist advocacy services might look like, including what model of advocacy should be adopted and how services should be provided, commissioned, managed and staffed. It also set out to establish core standards and a code of practice.


Working with a stakeholder group, the following methods of data collection were used:

  • a programme of visits to a range of advocacy services throughout England and Wales 
  • attendance at a number of advocacy network meetings and conferences 
  • a Delphi study to identify the essential characteristics of mental health advocacy 
  • a visit to the Netherlands where patients of psychiatric hospitals have had a legal right to access advocates since 1994. 


It was proposed that independent specialist advocacy should be

  • provided by a professional advocacy model 
  • Delivered by paid well trained accredited advocates 
  • Funded through statutory funding 
  • Provided by independent agencies 
  • Giving national cover to ensure equity of access 
  • All services working to an agreed code of practice 
  • National scrutiny

Core standards and a code of practice were proposed.


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