Nicholas is 17 years old and has a mental health condition. He had been admitted to a mental health hospital and was detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 on an acute ward for children and adolescents.

Nicholas was referred to the POhWER Independent Mental Health Advocacy service. Nicholas was allocated an Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA) – Angela. Angela met with Nicholas, introduced herself and explained her role as an IMHA. She also told him about his section rights.

Nicholas told Angela about the upcoming party his family were holding for his dad’s 40th birthday and how much he wanted to be there. Nicholas asked Angela to support him to express this at a ward round. 

Nicholas felt he needed an advocate to attend with to ensure he remembered everything he wanted to say and to be there to speak for him if necessary. Angela met with Nicholas before the ward round to discuss what he wanted to ask and to the importance of section 17 leave. Section 17 of the Mental Health Act 1983 says that ward staff can allow you to leave the ward or the hospital for short periods of time, but you may be asked to keep to certain conditions, such as returning within a certain timeframe or being accompanied by a member of staff.

Angela attended the ward round with Nicholas. With her support, Nicholas shared his views and worries with the Multidisciplinary Team before speaking to them about his request. Nicholas was able to discuss with his consultant why he was requesting Section 17 leave, how long the journey to the party would be and how long it would last. He also expressed why attending the party was important to him.

After the ward round Nicholas reflected on how pleased he was to have been given enough section 17 leave to attend his dad’s Birthday party and to be allowed to go without staff support.

The following week Angela met with Nicholas to discuss how the party had gone. Nicholas told her how great it was to have time with his family without the staff there and how good it felt to have had the opportunity to celebrate with his dad on his special birthday. Nicholas felt that he had enough section 17 leave available to him and hopes to use more of it to spend time with his family in the future.

By supporting Nicholas to request leave to spend time with his family outside of the hospital grounds, Angela was able to support him to uphold his right to a private and family life under the Human Rights Act 1998. Angela also empowered Nicholas to uphold his right to freedom of expression under the Human Rights Act 1998 by helping him to express his wishes and feelings to the ward staff.