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Durham University

Department of Sociology

Completed Projects

Independent Mental Health Act Advocacy

A research project of the Department of Sociology.


New mental health legislation is to be introduced to Parliament in 2004. This follows years of discussion on how the legislation should be brought up to date and the publication of a Green Paper in 1991, a White Paper in 2000 and a Draft Mental Health Bill in 2002. The Bill has been controversial but one of its most popular proposals has been the provision of advocacy services for people who become subject to compulsory treatment. In 2000, Di Barnes and Toby Brandon were commissioned to research how this advocacy could best be provided. Their report was published in 2002 and building on this work, Di Barnes has appointed to lead on advocacy on the Department of Health Mental Health Bill Implementation Team.


To research and develop mental health advocacy to a state of readiness for the implementation of the Mental Health Bill in 2007.


Work will be carried out with and 'Expert Group' of advocates. The project has a number of work streams that include:

1. Assessing the need for Mental Health Act Advocacy involving; a mapping of the capability and capacity of advocacy in England and Wales; an analysis of data on the use of the Mental Health Act and hospital activity; and a gap analysis leading to an assessment of how much Independent Mental Health Act Advocacy (IMHAA) will be needed and where.
2. Researching good practice: In preparation for contributing to the Mental Health Act Code of Practice and publishing good practice guidance, ways in which Mental Health Act advocacy can be delivered in different circumstances will be examined using qualitative methods. Research will focus on the special needs of particular groups of service users who may become subject to the powers of the Mental Health Act, such as, children and young people, people with learning disabilities, people who lack capacity to instruct an advocate and people from black and minority ethnic communities.
3. Costing advocacy: A survey of advocacy service costs will be undertaken in order to estimate the cost of IMHAA provision nationally. Guidance for commissioners will also be drawn up and a model contract developed. Research into the provision of advocacy in the independent sector will form a separate study.
4. Organisational structures: The optimum model for the provision of IMHAA will be researched and once an organisational model is agreed, a system of accreditation will be developed and piloted.
5. Training; the training requirements of IMHAA will be researched and a strategy drawn up to ensure that all IMHAA advocates can access the training prior to the Act being implemented.