Commissioning and monitoring of Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA) services
The training and qualification of IMCAs
The MCA 2005 and IMCAs (General) Regulations 2006 give local authorities the power to set what training and qualification is required of IMCA s. This is subject to requirements set out in the MCA Code of Practice that IMCAs need to have completed the IMCA training. Initially, this was a four-day course run by Action for Advocacy. The majority of people currently working as an IMCA will have attended this training. This has now been superseded by unit 305 of the advocacy qualification (see below) which is similarly offered by some providers as a four-day course but is assessed.
In advance of the implementation of the DoLS, the DH commissioned a two-day training course which focused specifically on the new IMCA roles. This was again delivered by Action for Advocacy. The DH expected that any IMCAs undertaking such work would have completed this course and have had at least three months’ experience as an IMCA , and/or worked on three IMCA cases. More than half of all previously trained IMCA s/IMCA managers attended this training. This has been superseded by unit 310 of the advocacy qualification (see below).
Since March 2009, national qualifications in independent advocacy have been available which were supported by the DH. These are City & Guilds qualifications (City & Guilds course handbook), based on four core units and six optional units. Two of the optional units specifically focus on IMCA :
- unit 305, ‘Providing Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy’ ('the IMCA unit')
- unit 310, ‘Providing Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy – Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards’ ('the DoLS unit').
To achieve the level three Certificate in Independent Advocacy (Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy) candidates are required to complete the four core units and the IMCA unit 305.
To achieve the level three diploma in Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy (Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards), candidates need to have the IMCA certificate and in addition complete the DoLS unit 310.
The qualifications are available from a range of providers. Some providers offered conversion courses for units 305 and 310 for those IMCAs who attended the original training courses.
Now the advocacy qualifications are available the expectation is that all IMCAs will complete unit 305. Further, if IMCAs are to undertake any of the IMCA roles associated with the DoLS they should also complete unit 310.
The DH made available funds for IMCA providers in April 2009 to support practising IMCAs obtain the qualifications. This was £1,000 per IMCA .
- The cost for a single unit is about £550.
- Where an IMCA has already undertaken the training the cost for the conversion assessment for unit 305 or 310 is about £350.
- The cost of the full certificate is in the order of £1,500.
- The cost of the full diploma is in the order of £2,000.
The qualifications are competency-based. To successfully complete each unit, candidates are required to provide evidence of real work practice. This means that it is not possible for new IMCAs to complete the assessment part of unit 305 before starting working in the IMCA role. Similarly, local levels of DoLS instructions will impact on the ability of IMCAs to complete unit 310.
The DH made the following recommendation with regard to the training and qualification of Independent Mental Health Advocates (IMHAs).
IMHAs should be expected to have successfully completed the IMHA module by the end of their first year of practice (making necessary adjustments for any maternity leave, long term sickness or other similar absences).Standards: appropriate experience and training Gateway reference: 10593, DH
This refers to unit 306 of the qualification in independent advocacy. A similar expectation could be applied for the completion of units 305 and 310 for IMCA s.
Commissioners will want to ensure that the service specification supports the following:
- All IMCAs successfully complete unit 305 and, if undertaking DoLS roles, unit 310, within appropriate timescales.
- New IMCAs do not practise until they have received training for unit 305.
- IMCAs do not undertake DoLS roles until they have received training for unit 310.
- Case work which is being undertaken by IMCAs who are yet to complete the assessment of unit 305 or 310 are being supervised by an IMCA who has completed the relevant unit(s). The name of the supervisor could be included on IMCA reports.
Commissioners should be aware that new IMCAs may need to wait a number of months before being able to access training for units 305 and 310.
Commissioners will want to take a view as to whether IMCAs are required to work towards completing the full certificate or diploma in independent advocacy. Consideration needs to be given to the resources required to support this target.
Continuing professional development
In addition to completing units 305 and 310, expectations should be placed on IMCA providers to ensure all IMCAs access further relevant training. This may cover:
- good practice in safeguarding adults (SCIE provides training to IMCAs in this area)
- working with the different client groups who may access the IMCA service ( the Dementia Advice Network can support IMCAs working with people who have dementia)
- report writing (Action for Advocacy provides training in this area)
- participation in regional forums for IMCA s.