Policy to identify and manage/minimise the risk of any conflict of interest
1. The Code of Practice Volume 1, Chapter 6 (Para 109 and 110) expands on The Mental Health (Care & Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 definition of independent advocacy and states that:
"Any independent advocacy organisation should have policies in place to identify and manage/minimise the risk of any conflict of interest.
Independent advocacy should be provided by an organisation whose sole role is independent advocacy or whose other tasks either complement, or do not conflict with, the provision of independent advocacy. If the independent advocacy service or advocate has a conflict of interest, they should inform all relevant parties of this, and should withdraw from acting for the patient."
2. To support best practice, Commissioners therefore need to be satisfied that organisations involved in providing independent advocacy have robust policies and protocols in place to ensure that appropriate action is taken to address and resolve any potential conflict of interest. The action necessary will depend on the nature of the conflict of interest and whether this relates to an individual advocate or the organisation as a whole. The policy should set out what action will be taken when perceived and/or actual conflicts are identified and include seeking, recording and taking the views of the service user into account.
3. It is important to remember, that even the perception of a conflict of interest can have a negative impact on how people view the organisation and how confident and comfortable they would be with that organisation providing them or a relative with advocacy support.
4. Policy Statement - points for inclusion
4.1 It would be anticipated that issues identified below in relation to the Board of Volunteer Directors, the staff, advocacy workers and volunteers would be considered for inclusion in the organisation's Conflicts of Interest Policy and associated procedures.
4.1.1 For volunteer Directors the organisation should be ensuring that:
- any other role, financial or business interest held by the Director would not, or would not be seen to, conflict with the delivery of independent advocacy
- each Director completes a Register of Interest declaration on appointment and that this is reviewed annually
- Board meetings include 'Conflict of Interest' as a standing agenda item.
4.1.2 For all its staff, advocacy workers and volunteers the organisation should:
- ensure individuals complete a 'Register of Interests' declaration on joining the organisation and that they understand that this is subject to on-going review and that they should provide periodic updates. The Register of Interest should be reviewed at least annually and should include any outside activities, financial interests or relationships of staff members that may pose a real or potential conflict of interest.
- provide regular support, advice and supervision. This should include advice in relation to avoiding actions or relationships, that might conflict or appear to conflict with their role or the interests of the organisation. This would include discussion in advance of any proposals to accept a position as an officer or director of a business concern or other organisation or serving on the board of directors of a bona fide charitable, educational or other non-profit organisation.
- ensure that staff, advocacy workers and volunteers are aware that in some instances the conflict of interest may be such that it is necessary for the advocacy worker or the organisation to withdraw from the provision of advocacy for certain individuals or groups. In such circumstances guidance on alternative arrangements for advocacy provision should be available.
This list is not exhaustive and there may be additional issues that are relevant to specific organisations that will also need to be considered and included.
4.2 Potential conflict of interest scenarios
4.2.1 These may include:
- An advocate discovers they have a personal connection to their advocacy partner or another person in their advocacy partner's life.
- The advocate or organisation is involved in providing another service to the individual in addition to their advocacy role.
- The advocate is involved, in a second job, in providing a different service to the advocacy partner.
- An advocate or organisation taking part in any business decision which involves a company or organisation that employs the advocacy partner's spouse or family member.
- An advocate has a second job where that other employment creates a conflict of interest.
- An advocate or organisation receiving personal benefits from advocacy partners or other service providers.
4.2.2 This is not an exhaustive list of situations to avoid. Where there is any doubt an issue or situation must be carefully considered in relation to potential for conflicts of interest.
Email: Sandra Falconer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House