HC Deb 17 September 2003 vol 410 cc836-7W
Dr. Evan Harris

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how the funding for mental health advocacy announced in the White Paper 'Valuing People' has been spent; and how much underspend there is from this fund(a) in England and (b) in each region. [128933]

(2) how many volunteer advocates have joined the mental health advocacy scheme announced in the White Paper 'Valuing People' (a) in England and (b) in each region. [128934]

(3) what progress has been made towards the target set out in the White Paper 'Valuing People' for one citizen advocacy group in each local authority area; and which local authorities do not yet have a citizen advocacy group. [128935]

Dr. Ladyman

The importance of advocacy for people with learning disabilities is a theme running throughout the White Paper "Valuing People: A New Strategy for Learning Disability for the 21stCentury" (Cm 5086) published in March 2001 which sets out our proposals for improving services for people with learning disabilities, their families and carers.

"Valuing People" announced the creation of two new funds, the Implementation Support Fund and the Learning Disability Development Fund, to support key aspects of its proposals. Two organisations, Values Into Action (VIA) and the British Institute of Learning Disabilities (BILD), are distributing money from the Implementation Support Fund to support the development and expansion of self-and citizen advocacy respectively. By the end of the third year of the funding programme in March 2004, £3 million will have been distributed to advocacy organisations. That figure includes the additional £140,000 which my hon. Friend, the Member for Redditch, announced in February 2002 was being made available from April that year following representations from the Learning Disability Task Force and self advocates. There has been no underspend in the first two years, and funding for the third year has already been allocated.

Our most recent information is that 449 volunteers have been recruited to citizen advocacy schemes; as a result 394 people with learning disabilities now have advocates who otherwise would not.

Information on the geographical distribution of citizen advocacy schemes is not available in the form requested, as many schemes cover more than one local authority area. In 2002–03, the first full year of the funding programme, advocacy schemes in twenty four new geographical areas received support.

The Government's report on learning disability, "Making Change Happen" (HC514), published in April 2003, announced that the Implementation Support Fund would continue until March 2006 and that the Learning Disability Task Force would be consulted on its use.

The draft Mental Health Bill published for consultation in June 2002 included the proposal for a statutory duty on the Secretary of State to provide for specialist mental health advocates to be available for every patient treated under the formal powers of the Bill and their nominated person.

At the request of the Department of Health, Durham University has undertaken a study of current mental health advocacy services to assist the Department in developing this new specialist advocacy service. A separate report on mental health advocacy was also published for consultation in June 2002. It contained a number of recommendations for good practice. The responses from both consultation exercises are being carefully evaluated and will be taken into account in developing plans for implementing the new specialist service, including the funding arrangements.

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