A History of Dorset Advocacy

Dorset Advocacy began its work in June 1993 as a citizen advocacy scheme.

The focus then was on creating long term one-to-one partnerships between people with learning disabilities and volunteers who got to know their ‘partner’ and then spoke up with and for them to make sure they got a fair deal in life. We continue to support people with learning disabilities to this day.

In 2005, Dorset Advocacy was one of only 7 organisations chosen by the Department of Health to pilot the new Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy (IMCA). IMCA was the first ever form of statutory advocacy – if someone met the eligibility criteria, they had a legal right to support from an advocate. We have provided IMCA for Dorset, Bournemouth and Poole ever since. The service developed further with the arrival of the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DOLS) in 2008; people affected by DOLS now account for around 80% of the 1100 or so people helped by IMCA each year. People who have dementia account for around 65% of those benefiting from IMCA.

IMCA was the catalyst for further developments in our work, and we soon added schemes supporting disabled people, older people, carers, and those applying for Continuing Healthcare funding.

Innovation is the cornerstone of our work. In the past five years we have developed the only volunteer-led Appropriate Adult scheme in the South West, supporting vulnerable adults in police custody; the scheme operates 14 hours per day, every day of the year. With funding from Esmee Fairbairn Foundation we delivered the Voicing Family Rights project, ensuring that parents who have learning disabilities are not disadvantaged during Children at Risk procedures.

In 2014 we established a partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support and local delivery partners Help and Care; Dorset Macmillan Advocacy was a peer advocacy scheme under which volunteers who have themselves experienced cancer support people aged 50+ who have a current diagnosis. Dorset Macmillan Advocacy was the subject of a very positive evaluation by Bournemouth CVS, and we helped around 90 people per year. The funding ended in December 2018. We would like to thank all of the amazing volunteers and staff who made this such a successful and distinctive project, which changed the lives of so many people.

We continue to develop. We are delivering more Advocacy for Parents with Learning Disabilities, and demand for our Litigation Friend service continues to rise. We are exploring all sorts of new opportunities – watch this space!