Independent Mental Capacity Advocate
The Mental Capacity Act 2005 introduced the role of the independent mental capacity advocate (IMCA). IMCAs are a legal safeguard for people who lack the capacity to make specific important decisions: including making decisions about where they live and about serious medical treatment options.
What is advocacy?
Advocacy is taking action to help people:
• express their views and wishes;
• secure their rights;
• have their interests represented;
• Access information and services;
• explore choices and options.
Advocacy promotes equality, social justice and social inclusion. It can empower people to speak up for themselves. Advocacy can help people become more aware of their own rights, to exercise those rights and be involved in and influence decisions that are being made about their future. In some situations an advocate may need to represent another person’s interests. This is called non-instructed advocacy and is used when a person is unable to communicate their views.
Who needs advocacy?
Anyone who needs support to:
• make changes and take control of their life;
• be valued and included in their community;
• be listened to and understood.
A person accessing advocacy could, for example, be someone with a learning difficulty or an older person who has dementia.
What is an advocate?
An advocate is someone who supports a person so that their views are heard and their rights are upheld. They can help a person to put their views and feelings across when decisions are being made about their life. They can give support which will enable a person to make choices and they inform people of their rights. An advocate will support a person to speak up for themselves or, in some situations, will speak on a person’s behalf. Advocates are independent. They are not connected to the carers or to the services which are involved in supporting the person. An advocate works one-to-one with a person to develop their confidence wherever possible and will try to ensure that the person feels as empowered as possible to take control of their own life.
What does an IMCA do?
An IMCA safeguards the rights of people who:
• are facing a decision about a long-term move or about serious medical treatment;
• lack capacity to make a specified decision at the time it needs to be made; and
• have nobody else who is willing and able to represent them or be consulted in the process of working out their best interests, other than paid staff. Regulations under the Mental Capacity Act give local authorities and NHS bodies powers to involve IMCAs in other decisions concerning:
• a care review; and
• adult protection procedures (even in situations where there may be family or friends to consult). IMCAs are independent and generally work for advocacy providers who are not part of a local authority or the NHS.
Who is the IMCA service for?
The IMCA service is provided for any person aged 16 years or older, who has no one able to support and represent them, and who lacks capacity to make a decision about either:
• a long-term care move;
• serious medical treatment;
• adult protection procedures; or
• a care review.
Information taken from gov.uk website and NHS.uk- May 2020