Practice guidance on the involvement of Independent Mental Capacity Advocates (IMCAs) in safeguarding adults
Example policy for IMCA instruction in safeguarding adults
The MCA code or practice expects local authorities and NHS bodies 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. There is a requirement to consider whether an IMCA should be instructed for each person at risk who lacks capacity to agree to one or more protective measures being considered.
This policy is based on the practice guidance. It is recommended that this is embedded in local safeguarding adults procedures.
Who makes the decision to instruct an IMCA ?
Responsibility for deciding whether an IMCA should be instructed sits with the safeguarding manager.
The safeguarding manager must consider whether an IMCA should be instructed for all people at risk.
The safeguarding manager must make a decision about instructing an IMCA at both the strategy discussion/meeting and the case conference/safeguarding planning stages.
Deciding if an IMCA should be instructed
If the person at risk lacks capacity to consent to one or more of the protective measures being considered (or interim measures put in place), the safeguarding manager should ensure that independent support and representation is available to the person at risk if one of the following applies:
- Where there is a serious exposure to risk:
- risk of death
- risk of serious physical injury or illness
- risk of serious deterioration in physical or mental health
- risk of serious emotional distress.
- Where a life-changing decision is involved and consulting family or friends is compromised by the reasonable belief that they would not have the person’s best interests at heart.
- Where there is a conflict of views between the decision-makers regarding the best interests of the person.
- Where there is a risk of financial abuse which could have a serious impact on the person at risk's welfare. For example, where the loss of money would mean that they would be unable to afford to live in their current accommodation, or to pay for valued opportunities.
An IMCA instruction for safeguarding adults is just one way the person at risk may access independent representation. Potentially the person at risk already has an advocate or an IMCA instructed for another purpose. There may also be a choice between instructing an IMCA and involving another advocate.
To decide whether an IMCA should be specifically instructed for safeguarding adults issues, in addition to, or as an alternative to, other forms of independent representation, the following should be considered.
- Whether the person could benefit from advocacy support for issues other than those related to safeguarding adults. The IMCA instruction would be focused on the protective measures being considered and is likely to end when decisions have been made regarding these.
- Whether the IMCA's right of access to relevant records would make a significant difference for the person.
- Whether the IMCAservice or other advocacy service has good availability to support the person during the safeguarding adults process.
- Whether the decisions regarding protective measures go beyond or are different to the reason for any existing IMCA instruction.
- If moving the person at risk is being considered as a protective measure there may be a requirement to instruct an IMCA for an accommodation decision if they have no one appropriate to consult.
- Where both the alleged perpetrator and alleged victim of abuse could benefit from independent representation, attention should be given to avoiding or minimising a conflict of interest. The same advocate or IMCA must not be expected to represent both people and ideally the two independent representatives will come from different organisations.
Once an IMCA has been instructed they should be invited to all safeguarding adults meetings.