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We all need a little help sometimes.. IMCA's and their role

October 5, 2016


An IMCA is an “Independent Mental Capacity Advocate”.  An IMCA acts for a person who has a condition that is affecting their ability to make decisions.


Such a condition could be an acquired brain injury; learning disability; mental illness; dementia; and even the effects of alcohol or drug misuse. Capacity can also be affected by other illness, trauma or other factors.


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.

In some situations, an advocate will represent another person’s interests. This is called "non-instructed advocacy” and is used when a person is unable to communicate their views.


Anyone who has a condition similar to that mentioned above may need advocacy at a specific time in their life. This could be because they need support to:

  • make changes and take control of their life;

  • be valued and included in their community; and

  • be listened to and understood.

IMCA’s are available to any person aged 16 years or older, who has no one able to support and represent them. An IMCA therefore 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.

Local authorities and NHS bodies have 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. They are available to people who are in prison, in hostels and on the streets and who lack capacity to make decisions about the type of things mentioned above.


IMCAs cannot be instructed if:

  • a person who lacks capacity has nominated someone to be consulted specifically on the issue in question;

  • a person has a personal welfare Attorney who is authorised specifically to make decisions on the issue in question; or

  • a personal welfare Deputy has been appointed by the Court with powers to make decisions on the same issue

However, where a person has no family or friends to represent them, but does have an Attorney or Deputy who has been appointed solely to deal with property and affairs, then an IMCA must be instructed.


In a nutshell an IMCA is a safeguard for people who lack capacity, who have no one else other than paid staff who ‘it is appropriate to consult’ (apart from adult protection cases where this criterion does not apply). The safeguard is intended to apply to those people who have no network of support, such as close family or friends, who take an interest in their welfare.


Do you have a friend or relative that lacks capacity? If so get in touch for help and advice on 01487 808000


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