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Practice guidance on the involvement of Independent Mental Capacity Advocates (IMCAs) in safeguarding adults

SCIE Guide 32

Published: November 2009

This resource has not been updated since November 2009. It may not reflect current policy but still provides valuable practice guidance.

About this guide

This practice guidance concerning the involvement of Independent Mental Capacity Advocates (IMCAs) in safeguarding adults is jointly published by the ADASS and SCIE . It replaces the Practice guidance criteria for the use of IMCAs in safeguarding adults published by ADASS in 2007.

Advocacy Partners was originally commissioned by the Department of Health (DH) and SCIE to develop guidance in this area. The first draft was written by Teresa Gorczynska, head of IMCA and Mental Health Advocacy, drawing on the lessons from research undertaken by Redley et al. (2008) on the involvement of IMCAs in adult protection procedures in England. This draft was amended by SCIE after a wide consultation. Input was received from members of ADASS and other local authority representatives, the DH , Action for Advocacy, Action on Elder Abuse, the Ann Craft Trust and the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), in addition to a number of IMCA providers.

Local authorities and NHS bodies are expected to have a policy setting out the criteria for deciding whether an IMCA should be instructed to represent and support a person involved in safeguarding adults proceedings. An example policy based on the guidance is included in the Appendix.

About the development of this guide


This guidance was a joint SCIE /DH commission, based on legislation and government policy, in the context of very little research evidence (except Redley et al, 2008). The project was informed by No Secrets policy and Mental Capacity Act (MCA).

Scoping and searching

Searching was not needed for this topic, as it was based on legislation with very little published evidence (as confirmed by Project Advisory Group).

Stakeholder involvement and consultation

Project Advisory Group included key author (Redley), Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), IMCA providers, safeguarding leads, the Public Guardian, Department of Health Mental Capacity Act and safeguarding policy and implementation leads.

Peer review and testing

The document was drafted by SCIE , and several revised versions (informed by consultation with stakeholder groups listed above) were reviewed before being agreed by the MCA Advisory Group.

Additional endorsement

The document was approved independently by ADASS as its policy statement in this area: it is jointly published by SCIE with ADASS .

NICE accreditation

NICE has accredited the process used by SCIE to produce guidelines. Accreditation is valid for 5 years from July 2011 and is applicable to guidance produced using the processes described in the SCIE Guide Production Toolkit.

For full details on our accreditation visit: NICE Accreditation.


Safeguarding adults is used in this document where adult protection was used in the Mental Capacity Act Code of Practice. Safeguarding adults is defined as ‘all work which enables an adult “who is or may be eligible for community care services” to retain independence, well-being and choice and to access their human right to live a life that is free from abuse and neglect” (ADASS 2005). It covers both the prevention of abuse and responses to situations where abuse might be taking place.

The terms for the different stages of safeguarding adult proceedings reflect those used by ADASS (2005). Similarly, safeguarding manager is used here for the person responsible for managing the ‘safeguarding adults’ process in relation to a specific safeguarding referral. This is likely to be a local authority manager but the role could be designated to a professional from another organisation.

The person at risk refers to the person who is the focus of the safeguarding adult proceedings: this may be someone who is either alleged to have been abused or to have perpetrated abuse.

Who this document is for

This good practice guide is primarily aimed at professionals who have responsibilities in relation to safeguarding adults and may be involved in safeguarding adults proceedings. This includes local authorities, IMCA providers, safeguarding managers, the police and other safeguarding adults partners.

Practice guidance on the involvement of Independent Mental Capacity Advocates (IMCAs) in safeguarding adults