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

The IMCA's contact with family, friends and others

The IMCA will want to speak to people who are not part of the safeguarding adults meetings to help identify what the person's views and wishes might be. This includes any family and friends, but also health and social care workers and other professionals.

The MCA code of practice gives the responsibility of informing relevant people that an IMCA has been instructed to decision-makers. Good practice is for the safeguarding manager to communicate to anyone who needs to be aware of the safeguarding adults proceedings that an IMCA has been instructed to independently represent the person at risk. This may include family or friends.

IMCAs must be very careful not to disclose confidential information to the people they consult. For example, if the IMCA is looking to speak to a family member to help understand what the person's wishes might be, they must not assume that they will know about the alleged abuse. Just saying that they have been instructed because safeguarding adult proceedings have been instigated could be a breach of confidentiality.

It is strongly recommended here that before speaking to anyone outside of the safeguarding adults meeting that the IMCA confirms with a member of the meeting that the person has been advised of the adult protection proceedings and the instruction of the IMCA . They should also find out whether any specific information relating to the alleged abuse has been shared with the person.

There is the possibility that to help establish the person at risk's views, the IMCA may want to provide the person they are consulting with further information about the alleged abuse. To avoid a breach of confidentiality the IMCA should first get explicit permission to do so from the safeguarding manager.


An IMCA is instructed to represent and support Jean, an 83-year-old woman with dementia, whom it is alleged has been and continues to be emotionally abused by her daughter. The allegation was raised by a neighbour who heard Jean’s daughter, Elizabeth, shouting at her in a very abusive way on a number of occasions. A range of protective measure are being considered including exploring whether Jean's sister needs more support as her carer, and a potential move. Jean has been assessed as lacking capacity to decide where she lives.

The daughter, when advised of the safeguarding alert, says that it was no one else's business what happened and that if she shouted at Jean it was only because she gets stressed looking after her. The IMCA does not seek to contact the daughter directly to help establish Jean's wishes and views.

After checking with the safeguarding manager, the IMCA meets Jean at the day centre she attends one morning a week. This is facilitated by the day centre manager who attended the safeguarding strategy meeting. As a way of getting to know Jean the IMCA asks about her children. While a lot of what Jean says is unclear she says she misses her daughter Victoria. The IMCA was not aware that Jean had another daughter and after the meeting asks the manager of the day centre about Victoria. The manager explains that Victoria often used to bring Jean to the centre about two years ago but they had not seen her recently and didn't know why that was the case. The manager provides the IMCA with Victoria's contact details.

The IMCA phones the safeguarding manager concerning the need for Victoria to have the opportunity to feed into the decision-making process. The safeguarding manager similarly had not been made aware that Jean has another daughter living locally. The safeguarding manager says she will contact Victoria directly to advise her of the safeguarding concerns after which she suggests the IMCA makes contact to explore her understanding of Jean's feelings and wishes.

Good practice points

The safeguarding manager should advise all relevant people, including any family and friends where appropriate, that an IMCA has been instructed.

IMCAs should not contact anyone outside the safeguarding adults meeting without first confirming that they have been advised of the safeguarding adults proceedings and the instruction of the IMCA. The IMCA should also find out what they have been told about the alleged abuse.

IMCAs must not share any information about the alleged abuse which may be unknown to the person they are consulting. If an IMCA wishes to do this they should get explicit permission to do so from the safeguarding manager.