Dissatisfaction with Independent Advocate

~I would concur with Steve C’s excellent input to this subject. There are quite important distinctions between a ‘litigation friend’ and that of the IMHA as with other advocate roles - informal or formal - paid, unpaid commissioned or employed.

What is important is the person’s views, wishes are represented as they may instruct/wish to have represented.


This cannot be in isolation to also knowing and understanding where is ‘line in the sand’. The line between a person’s views. wishes for representing on behalf of them and whether if these were granted, subsequently are seen as causal of harm to themselves or others. The whispers from others - ‘I said this would happen’ - ‘why didn’t they talk, listen to me’ !!

Assuming that is the advocate is aware of the person’s history, [whether from records family members etc] notably as to risks to the person themselves and or others. What was the context, circumstances triggers etc that informed that risk. Are they also relevant or in play now! Advocates must not work in isolation. Those that I know do not!

What does a person’s history tell us - or who has written or informed that history. How reliable is it. Is their ‘contrary evidence’?

It is important to consider the duty of care that an advocate has as a professional not just to the person they represent but to other’s - notably family members who may be at risk. It is a fine balance. and best discussed openly with the person for whom-the advocate had been appointed for and certainly with their manager/supervisor etc.

I am not suggesting that is the case in this matter - I don’t know! What we know frequently from coroner’s reports, serious untoward incident-reports, enquiries etc that ‘versions’ of a person’s history get forgotten, re-interpreted, ignored. History tends to repeat itself. Despots come and go like the seasons. 'Wars to end all wars 'don’t live up to expectation! ’

The truth is out there’ - Yet - 'whose 'truth"? There is a hierarchy of professions who you can [supposedly] believe - ‘if the doctor says it then it must be correct!’ …"They were told it at a ward meeting by the nurse attending - but they had been on leave at the time. The ward staff member who saw the incident was the domestic — yet they don’t get invites to ward meetings - but often have most the contact with patients! They filed an incident report - which went to … [does not appear on the patient’s file]

There is saying [which I believe was quoted in a mental health homicide enquiry back in the 1990’s] that:

“The Best Predictor of Future Behaviour Is … Past Behaviour”

A ‘mantra’ now much maligned by some professionals - to simplistic - ’ the science of assessing human behaviour/risk has moved on’! Notably referenced by clinical and forensic psychologists who dismiss the saying’ as some form ‘fortune cookie’ or Confucian saying!

Now in health and social care we have a ‘tool station supermarket’ selling a multitude of screening tools, psychometric tests, risks assessments, algorithms, - and 'Bob the Builder 'I can fix it[s] …Neuro Psychology alongside neuro prediction, assessing persons with a brain injury as to their decision-making capacity, a person’s risk of violence? Big business and attractive to the legal system when looking for the new expertise to perform upon the stages of our judicial court MRI scanning is the new ‘crystal ball’ in town and not just for looking at our bones!

We also have ‘intuitive physics’ on the horizon for telling us what a person is going to do! 'Both perceptual and motor constraints shape the inferences that are generated by the brain’s first-person’s physics engine… " [1]

Personally, I have only just grasped the significance of Isaac Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion - [or is that ‘emotion’!] so I may be misrepresenting unfairly this form of science as suitable for assessing behaviour

Geriatric as I am [Officially classified as a ‘State Pensioner’ or ‘OAP’ and prone to 'senior moments] gives me licence to promote this saying at least as a good ‘starting point’. Advocates should [and do] consider other’s opinions, views knowledge of a person [and hopefully with the person’s agreement] talk with other person’s involved, notably family members. Engage with and understand a person’s history, theirs and other 'stories, where there is agreement, where there are differences.

Advocates have a crucial role and one I respect enormously ,as to being able to have that ‘mountain top’ view of things’, the big picture. This should not undermine their key role and responsibilities and as to the focus of their role and to whom! It’s part of what they [I] do and most importantly for those we represent.

Engaging and listening to the person’s history, their story. In this digital world we know history is now even more open to [re]interpretation. Such is the speed by which we receive information, history can now by-pass the stage of being re-written, re-interpreted, questioned, analysed - it just gets written by whoever has the access to the right technology and global networks and needs to put a spin or interpretation upon it on it! Tomorow’s 'chip paper ’ or whatever todays electronic equivalent is! Lost in the ether!

In Charles Dickens novel **"Hard Times’, ** ***Mr Gradgrind enthuses upon ‘Facts’ *Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. **’ [2]

If ever there could be a challenge for a contemporary ‘Mr Gradgrind’ in today’s technological world is in establishing what are the 'The facts of the matter … the person’s story, the families, the different perspectives, opinions from, medical science, be it psychiatry, social work or psychology A challenge to many professionals in health and social care. More so I believe for advocates - to be able to respect the truth - respect a person’s story, distinguish between what are facts, beliefs, wishes, opinions, hearsay or whatever. To uphold that balance of a ‘duty of care’ to that individual but also for others… and to ensure that they can maintain that trust that you will endeavour do the right thing for the person - even though it may not be what they want to hear at that time!

That’s the hardest thing! To tell a person that you want to support them, represent their views their wishes and of course you should. Should this also require the advocate to be openly honest with them as to what may ‘not add up’ about what they are asking you to say, represent on their behalf at that point in time! To be open about that -be ‘factual’, even if they are not necessarily in a place or mindset to listen or understand that at the time!

As a social worker - not being ‘liked’ consequent to/of the decisions I made and actions I took in accordance with my professional role and statutory responsibilities, well it came with the ‘job’! Just as it is the job of comedians to add to the already voluminous number of well-known jokes about social workers [and which I also frequently recite - including the one about a ‘Rockville dog’, because it’s the only joke I can remember these days!] referencing the 'legal responsibilities bestowed upon social workers when used or not and referred to by much of our news media - and of course entirely factual!

I remain registered and practice as a social worker - though 'independent ’ mainly pro-bono and as an advocate - which is what I thought I had trained for 40 plus years ago!

Being an advocate is much much harder and I am glad that it is. It brings with it ‘passion’, really having to listen; to think about how I do it! How I come across and of my own vulnerability, my prejudices, attitudes - that I don’t have nor should have the answers to many of the problems I come across - but I am me! It’s good to talk, ask questions - even better to listen! To try and understand, to interpret that person’s world in a way that is meaningful and hopefully understood and listened to by those who need to hear it!

Ancora Impro[3]


[1] Jason Fischer & Bradford Z. Mahon (2022): ***What tool representation, intuitive physics, and action have in common: The brain’s first-person physics engine, *** Cognitive Neuropsychology, DOI: 10.1080/02643294.2022.2106126

[2] Hard Times – For These Times (more commonly now known as Hard Times), Charles Dickens first published in 1854 It first appeared in weekly parts, published in’Household Words’ from April to August [1854]1854.The book appraises English society and is aimed at highlighting the social and economic pressures of the times. It was Charles Dickens’s only novel about the industrial working class.

[3] Ancora Imparo – I am still learning.” Attributed to Michelangelo. He had said it when he was 87 years old and working on St. Peter’s Basilica