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Advocacy and Independent Mental Capacity Advocates

See also Making decisions – The Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA) service. The information from this section is taken from this Government booklet.

1. 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; and
  • 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.

2. Who needs Advocacy?

Anyone who needs support to:

  • make changes and take control of their life;
  • be valued and included in their community; and
  • 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.

3. 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.

If the person is unable to communicate their views and wishes about the decision that needs to be made, an advocate uses non-instructed advocacy. This means taking action with or on behalf of the person. The non-instructed advocate:

  • aims to uphold the person’s rights;
  • ensure fair and equal treatment and access to services; and
  • make sure that decisions that are taken have respect for their individual preferences and circumstances.

4. What does an Independent Mental Capacity Advcocate do?

An Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (also known as an IMCA) works with people who lack mental capacity – on either a permanent or temporary basis – and have no one who is able to support them and represent them to make decisions. An IMCA supports people so their views and feelings are heard and their rights upheld during the process of making decisions.

The role of the IMCA includes making sure that, when decisions are being proposed or suggested for a person who does not have mental capacity, that:

  • all options have been considered;
  • where the person’s own preferences and dislikes can be identified, that these are taken into account;
  • no particular agendas are being pursued;
  • the person’s civil, human and welfare rights are being respected.

The IMCA has the right to see the person they are supporting in private. They are also allowed to access relevant health and social care records.

They should always attempt to get to know the person’s preferred method of communication and spend time finding out if a person is able to express a view and how they communicate.

The IMCA is independent and usually work for an advocacy service which is not part of the council or the NHS.

5. Who is the IMCA Service for?

The Independent Mental Capacity Advocate 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:

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