Practice guidance on the involvement of Independent Mental Capacity Advocates (IMCAs) in safeguarding adults
Through contact with the person at risk the IMCA may gain information relating to the alleged abuse or what might be other abusive situations. Similarly, the IMCA could gain this information from consultation with other people. In general the IMCA will want to pass any such information to the safeguarding manager (with the possibility of making further safeguarding adults alerts). However, before sharing any information the IMCA needs to consider the following points.
- A decision by the IMCA to pass on concerns about abuse or neglect nearly always involves sharing information about an individual that is both personal and sensitive and is subject to the Data Protection Act 1998.
- Where a person at risk has capacity to decide whether information they provided should be shared, their decision should be respected. The IMCA is however allowed to make an exception if there is an overriding duty such as a danger to life or limb, or risk to others (see Data Protection Act 1998 and DH 1997).
- Where a person lacks capacity to decide whether information should be shared, consideration should be given to the person's best interests. In most cases it will be in the person's best interests for this to be shared to inform the safeguarding adults process.
There is a significant responsibility for IMCAs associated with not sharing specific information relating to potential abuse. This is the case both if the IMCA understands that the person has capacity to decide that it is not shared, or they believe it is not in their best interests. It is recommended here that if either is the case the IMCA discusses this urgently with their line manager.
An IMCA is instructed after it is confirmed that Paul is being financially and emotionally abused by a neighbour. The police are involved but the conclusion is that there is not enough evidence to prosecute. Paul has an acquired brain injury and lives alone. A protective measure being considered is increasing the support provided to Paul as it suspected that loneliness makes him susceptible to the abuse. Paul is assessed as lacking capacity to make decisions regarding the level of support provided, particularly because of his lack of insight into the abuse that he has experienced.
The IMCA meets with Paul in his home after a risk assessment. Paul speaks about what the neighbour did to him but appears to be most concerned that they do not visit him any more. Then Paul talks about another ‘friend’ who he says buys him chips for £20 every Friday night. The IMCA is very worried by this and checks with Paul what he has said. The IMCA tries his best to explain that chips don't cost that much and the ‘friend’ is taking lots of his money. Paul gets upset, saying it is his friend and he doesn't want him to go away too. The IMCAsays he may have to tell someone about this. This is clearly not Paul's wish.
Immediately after the meeting, the IMCA writes down what was said. He also contacts his own manager for advice about what to do. The manager asks the IMCA about Paul's capacity to make a decision about the information being passed on. The IMCAsays he believes that Paul does not have capacity to make this decision, explaining the reasons for this. It is agreed that the information should be shared on a best interests basis. The IMCAsubsequently makes a new safeguarding adult alert and advises the safeguarding manager of this.
Good practice points
IMCAs should be aware of their responsibilities in relation to sharing personal and sensitive information.
If an IMCA believes that any information they have about potential abuse should not be shared as part of the safeguarding adults process they should discuss this urgently with their line manager.