Jess Flanagan and Jo Burton were invited to speak at the Swan Advocacy Annual Conference on 10 June 2014. The conference was a lively and interesting event attended by advocates, social workers, lawyers and representatives from Wiltshire Council and other local authorities.
The keynote speaker was Graham Enderby, carer of HL in the Bournewood case. Graham was an incredibly charismatic speaker and it was clear that his resilience, fortitude and total commitment to HL enabled them to fight such a long battle for HL. It was very humbling for the rest of us. All of the speakers presented interesting topics to a high standard but the person who held most resonance for me was Noelle Blackman, who spoke to us about ‘Indifference’. At the core of her talk was the tragedy of ‘Laughing Boy’, Connor Sparrowhawk and his mother’s fight for an inquest into his death which occurred while he was detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983.
The full title of the conference was Statutory Safeguards: Protection or Control? ‘The role of independent advocacy in finding the balance’. Perhaps the key role of the independent advocate is the empowerment of P. This could mean empowering P to be part of the process, or helping to put steps and measures in place to ensure that P’s wishes, feelings and needs are recognised, and that they are acknowledged by practical outcomes, instead of being treated with indifference. This empowerment can result in protection rather than control, which is often the outcome of indifference.
A big thank you from Jess and Jo to Swan Advocacy for inviting us to speak and to attend the conference. It was a most enjoyable and interesting day and it has inspired the title of our own forthcoming conference in Bristol on 17 October 2014: “Mental Capacity Act 2005: Promoting Autonomy and Empowerment?”
For further information about mental capacity or health and social care law, please contact our Court of Protection team.