Advocacy and safeguarding
Advocates and advocacy come in many forms, but a Government report from earlier this year has highlighted the role of Independent Mental Capacity Advocates representing people who are victims of adult abuse. Just some terms of explanation first, Independent Mental Capacity Advocates or IMCAs were created by the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA). The idea of IMCAs was to represent and support people who lacked capacity to make some decisions and did not have friends or family who could advocate for them. As the title suggests, IMCAs should be independent of the decision makers, such as doctors or care home staff. A number of independent sector and voluntary organisations in England and Wales have contracts for providing IMCAs in their local area.
If a person is subject to an adult protection investigation, even where there are friends or family around, then local authorities have the power to appoint an IMCA, where they consider that the appointment would be of particular benefit to the person concerned and the MCA Code of Practice says that that they must at least consider appointing one. What the recent Department of Health report has highlighted is that, for the first time since the Mental Capacity Act came into force, the number of cases where IMCAs have been representing people who were subject to safeguarding procedures has gone down. Why should that be? I think one of the difficulties around safeguarding procedures is that they are governed largely by policy rather than law. However, we have got a piece of law in our armoury. It’s the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (Independent Mental Capacity Advocates) (Expansion of Role) Regulations 2006 Section 4 – to be really precise!
What are the kinds of adult abuse situation where an IMCA might be sought? There’s lots of information out there to guide you, and The Social Care Institute for Excellence produces an excellent guide called Practice guidance on the involvement of Independent Mental Capacity Advocates in safeguarding adults. It includes a number of case studies which are very useful learning aids. Now, only a local authority or NHS representative can instruct an IMCA to act, but care home staff are going to be involved in alerting local authorities where there are abuse concerns. If you’re looking for training materials on the topic of adult abuse and the role of IMCAs take a look around the SCIE website, which has a number of resources at: http://www.scie.org.uk/publications/guides/guide32/
David Beckingham QCS Expert Contributor on Mental Health
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