Decision Making

Providing support to people who lack capacity to make decisions for themselves.

What is Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy?

We all need to make important decisions about our lives. Some decisions can be harder to make than others. Imagine if you were unable to make these types of decisions for yourself and you didn’t have family or friends to support you? Every-day people who lack capacity to make these types of decisions have them made for them by others.

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 empowers and protects people who may not be able to make decisions for themselves due to illness or disability. It states that people over 16 years of age who lack capacity to make certain decisions have the right to an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate to represent them and protect their interests.

An IMCA is qualified to work within the framework of the Mental Capacity Act.

What does ‘lacks capacity’ mean?

Mental capacity is the ability to make a decision. When someone lacks capacity this means they are unable to make a decision, at the time it needs to be made, due to a disturbance of the mind or brain.

Some people may always lack capacity to make decisions due to an illness or disability they may have had from birth. Temporary lack of capacity may be as result of an accident, being under an anaesthetic or the effects of drugs or alcohol. Capacity can vary over time or may depend on the type of decision being made.

The Mental Capacity Act requires decision specific assessments of capacity. This means staff and unpaid carers should make assessments of capacity for simple decisions like what to wear and eat. However more formal assessments should be carried out and recorded appropriately by professionals for serious decisions such as where to live or serious medical treatments.

When can I get an IMCA?

An advocate will be appointed where a person lacks capacity and has no appropriate family or friends who can be consulted about the decision. The types of decisions include:

  • Serious medical treatment
  • Change of accommodation
  • Care reviews

What will an IMCA do?

An advocate will:

  • meet and support the person to find about their views, wishes, feelings and values
  • talk to people who know the person well including medical professionals, care staff, family and friends
  • represent the person at meetings and challenge decisions if they are not in the person’s best interests
  • use a non-instructed advocacy approach
  • check that the principles of the Mental Capacity Act are being followed and alternative options are explored for the person
  • write a report for the decision maker which must be taken into account when the decision is being made

How do I get an IMCA?

Referrals are made by a professional such as a doctor or social worker.