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Getting to know you: reflections on a specialist independent mental health advocacy service for Bexley and Bromley residents in forensic settings
Posted on 04 January 2017 by Azlinda Abd Rahim (Assistant Manager)
Abstract

Purpose – This paper aims to discuss an audit evaluation of a specialist independent mental health advocacy service based in the London Borough of Bexley.
Design/methodology/approach – The audit included qualitative interviews with ten service users, resident in two specialist forensic mental health and challenging behaviour units. All participants were long-term in-patient residents. A number of ethical issues required consideration, in particular respondent confidentiality and informed consent.
Findings – Findings indicate that the service’s approach, which combines formal advocacy methods with a proactive ethos, had a positive impact on engagement. The importance of trust in the relationships between advocates and service users was also highlighted by the study and is discussed here. The audit also indicates a significant increase in self-reported wellbeing, self-efficacy and empowerment for participants. Given that enhancing personal empowerment is one of the primary objectives of the advocacy service, the positive wellbeing outcomes reported are encouraging.
Research limitations/implications – The paper relies on a small number of individuals. There is no attempt to claim representativeness or endeavour to generalise from the findings.
Originality/value – It is recommended that, in the absence of a comprehensive national evidence base, the advocacy needs of patients in forensic and specialist settings be constantly reviewed. Additionally, further action research, to inform educational material and guides for advocacy in specialist settings, may be beneficial and timely.

Keywords: Independent mental health advocacy, Forensic, Engagement, Trust, Mental health services, Bexley and Bromley, Intergroup relations


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