The Independent Mental Capacity Act Advocacy (IMCA) service was established in 2007 following concerns expressed during the implementation of the Act that there was a need to provide extra support in the Act for the most vulnerable people.
The purpose of the service is to help those vulnerable people who lack capacity facing decisions made by the NHS and Local Authorities about serious medical treatment and changes of residence.
The researchers in this study set out to discover to what extent care managers in understood the role of the Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA) service, and to identify what differences there were between this newly created statutory service IMCA and the existing general advocacy services.
22 participants from three community teams took part: all but one had attended training on the Mental Capacity Act (2005).
Using a series of scenarios, the researchers asked the participants to answer questions relating to the most appropriate response to the scenarios and which would be the most appropriate professional to contact and what the role of that professional would be.
They found that the responses showed quite a poor understanding of the issues with less than 50% of respondents giving the correct responses with substantially less than 50% getting the right answer when relating to the need for an IMCA referral. Worryingly, half of the respondents did not identify the function of advocacy as representing client’s views with a number suggesting that the IMCA had decision making powers. None of the respondents identified the statutory requirement to involve an IMCA in decisions relating to serious medical treatment.
The authors conclude that given all but one of the participants had attended training, that in order to achieve a better working knowledge of the Act, a different approach to training and supporting staff might be required.
Knowledge of Advocacy Options within Services for People with Learning Disabilities, Martins, C et al., in Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 24: 274–279
Booklet explaining the IMCA service from the Office of the Public Guardian