HL Deb 17 February 1987 vol 484 cc996-7

3.6 p.m.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what has been the outcome of the pilot advocacy project in three mental hospitals, mainly funded by the Department of Health and Social Security, with particular reference to the relation of the project to Sections 1–4 of the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultations and Representations) Act 1986.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, while the Advocacy Alliance has not published an evaluation of the project, I understand it considers that this small-scale project has successfully established the advocacy scheme in the three hospitals and has provided a model of good practice for elsewhere.

It is likely that some advocates might well make suitable representatives of mentally-handicapped people under the provisions of Sections 1 and 2 of the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986 when those sections are brought into operation. However, the roles are not identical and experience of advocacy is too limited yet to indicate how far advocacy can be widely applied and how it will relate to the appointment of representatives under the 1986 Act. We see advocacy working alongside and in partnership with professional accountability, the continuing involvement of interested relatives and wider community involvement.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for his full reply. Could he give the House some idea of the cost to the Government of these schemes and whether they are cost effective as compared with voluntary schemes which might do the same sort of job just as well?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his supplementary question. Advocacy Alliance has to date received agreement to grants totalling £70,000 from the Department of Health and Social Security. This, however, meets only part of the running costs of the organisation over the period in question, the balance of expenses, as with most voluntary organisations in receipt of government funds, coming from donations by a wide range of bodies and individuals. In the case of Advocacy Alliance, this has included contributions from other parts of the voluntary sector, including parent organisations such as Mencap.

Lord Ennals

My Lords, in view of the fact that this seems to be the only part of this particular Act on which there has been any noticeable movement, and since it is—I hope the noble Lord will agree—an important experiment, could the conclusions to which he has made brief reference be laid in the Library where they can be seen by Members of your Lordships' House?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, an independent evaluation of the project was undertaken by the Rowntree Trust. Publication of this evaluation is currently under consideration by the trust and Advocacy Alliance.

Lord Elton

My Lords, are we to take it that my noble friend's right honourable friend has not yet assessed the extent to which the scheme benefits the patients? If he has made an assessment does he see any linkage to his movement for care in the community as a means of assisting inmates of mental hospitals to become resident in the community with the assistance of their advocate?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, while the projects were strictly limited in location and in the numbers of hospital residents selected to be involved, and while there were difficulties in recruiting and retaining advocates, it is clear, following discussions between officials and representatives of Advocacy Alliance, that, given sufficient training of advocates and co-operation from the hospital authorities and staff, an advocate may make a significant contribution to improvement in the quality of a hospital resident's life.