IMCA & Mental Capacity Act Newsletter
Advocacy and Mental Capacity Act Resource, Support and Information Agency

Welcome to our April newsletter!

We hope this round up of news and information finds everyone well. Further to our recent request for feedback regarding NHS Complaints Advocacy, a joint piece of research that we carried out with the Mental Health Foundation, we would like to thank everyone that contributed and gave their time on this. The Mental Health Foundation submitted our joint report to the Department of Health just before Easter and we hope to be able to provide some feedback soon.

This newsletter brings you some of the most recent updates in the advocacy & mental capacity sector.

Advocacy National Register
We recently happened upon an organisation that has resurrected the idea of a national advocacy register. That is, a register where advocates voluntarily sign up to and pay for membership. The idea is that this is an added safeguard for clients (who can check whether their advocate is on the register); for the advocate (that they can feel confident in the knowledge that their practice is reviewed as well as recommended); and for commissioners (who may check the register when considering tender applications). Many of you may recall that several years ago there were discussions on this subject via Action for Advocacy, SCIE, the DH and OPG, much of which came to the conclusion that the idea could not be progressed at the time. The reasons were many but the following summarises this:
  • If it's a voluntary register, how does that truly offer a safeguard? Choosing not to be on a register is not an indication that there are issues for concern.
  • Could a register be used against an advocate? For example risking tender applications unfairly or job opportunities purely because an individual or organisation is not on a register.
  • Does the fact a person is employed, required to have a DBS check, accountable within employment law, signed up to the Advocacy Charter and Code of Practice; for statutory advocates working within a statutory Code of Practice and so on, not provide enough of a safeguard?
  • There is however, an argument that anyone can call themselves an advocate yet not be employed as an advocate, when working with vulnerable people. Is this lack of accountability putting people at risk? But is this  a sufficient rationale? We know there is always the potential for abuse to occur, there are laws, safeguards, policies within local authorities, care homes, involvement of the police that can address this. Would a register definitely end the risk that someone might call themselves an advocate but not be one?
  • However what about those advocates that wish to advertise their work in a freelance capacity? Shouldn't they be afforded the opportunity to do this and a register would enable them to do just that yet still be ultimately accountable by signing up to CPD, the qualification etc? This is a valid argument but is there a demand for this?
So with the above in mind, we were intrigued that this idea has come around again from an organisation called Synergy Business Solutions. We have been in touch with them to ask whether there will be a consultation on this and what happens from here. They have explained they will be launching this at their conference at the end of the month and then a consultation process will begin until the end of June, the response to the consultation will be posted on their website before they then launch the register. Here is the link to the information

We will be contributing to their consultation, considering the response to previous consultations on this subject and it will be interesting to see how this develops. Of particular interest is given it will be launched anyway, how will this impact on the sector given the issues raised in previous years as highlighted above.

Care Act & Advocacy Seminar
Further to our very successful Care Act seminars that were run in conjunction with Irwin Mitchell, we are in the process of arranging a second one in Manchester due to demand. We hope to advertise the date in the next 2 weeks. Please get in touch to register an interest.

New Mental Capacity Act Book
May 2015 will see the publication of 'A Practical Guide to the Mental Capacity Act 2005: Principles in Practice' written by Matthew Graham, Lecturer in Social Work, Kent University, and Jakki Cowley, Empowerment Matters. Alex Ruck Keene, 39 Essex Chambers has provided the foreward. Published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, we hope this will be as the title suggests, a practical guide for all practitioners including advocates, care home staff, social worker, doctors and other practitioners working in this field. For a sneak preview / reserve your copy please click on this link:

Annual DH IMCA Report
No doubt many of you will have seen the most recent IMCA annual report for 2013-2014:

The statistical information is always an interesting element of the IMCA report, with some IMCA services detailing only 1 referral in a year whereas others are comparatively different such as Leeds who appear to have the most instructions of 425. We suspect that where there are conspicuously low numbers there are other reasons for this and it's unlikely to suggest that there is no need for an IMCA service in that area, but it would be useful to know this in more detail.

Mental Health Act 1983 Code of Practice
You will be aware that the new MHA 1983 Code of Practice was recently launched on April 1st, you can access it here:

We are pleased to see that non instructed advocacy and the role of an IMHA has been made stronger and makes clear that where a person lacks the capacity to instruct an advocate that an IMHA must be contacted: 

6.16 If a patient lacks capacity to decide whether or not to obtain help from an IMHA, the hospital manager should ask an IMHA to attend the patient so that the IMHA can explain what they can offer to the patient directly.

DoLS Guidance
The Law Society have recently launched new guidance on the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards. Described on their own website as 'commissioned by the Department of Health and aims to help solicitors and frontline health and social care professionals identify when a deprivation of liberty may be occurring in a number of health and care settings. It uses case scenarios to explain the law following the landmark judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Cheshire West (2014)'. Please click on this link for further information:

DoLS and the Law Commission
The following is an update from Tim Spencer Lane at the Law Commission regarding a forthcoming consultation on the Safeguards:

We are on course for publication of our consultation paper on 8 July. The consultation period will last until the end of October. We are anxious to ensure that we have the fullest and most productive consultation process possible. With that in mind, I am asking for your help to make sure we consult properly with your organisation and its constituency.

In terms of written documents, there will be a full consultation paper published, along with a summary (which will be available in accessible formats). We would be very grateful for any suggestions on how to make the consultation and the documents accessible for the widest range of people possible.

There is a potential limitation on the process, in that we don't have any significant resources to spend. But we hope that by planning in advance, we can get round that.

Publicising the consultation

We would be very grateful for any help with publicising the consultation. For example, you may have existing networks, journal or email publications that you could use to inform people about the consultation and circulate our documents. We are more than happy to provide short articles or other materials for this purpose if this would assist.

Consulting your organisation

Of course we hope that you will prepare a full written response. But in addition, we have found it very valuable in the past to engage in a discussion with stakeholders, using conferences, workshops, seminars, and other meetings. If you have any meetings or events which we could input into, with the aim of encouraging such dialogue, during the consultation period, or indeed if you would be prepared to arrange one specially, we would be very grateful.

Ensuring wide consultation

We are exploring how we can engage with all the relevant stakeholders, and in particular disabled people (including people who have been subject to the DoLS) and carers. We are also keen to make sure that our process covers all parts of England and Wales. We would therefore be grateful for any assistance you could provide with ensuring this.

Tim's contact details are as follows for anyone wishing to contact him with regards the above:

Mental Capacity Act Steering Group
Hot off the press via Alex Ruck Keene on his website is an update on the steering group:


We hope to be in touch soon with regards new training and information on a national IMCA Conference. If there is anything you would like including in our next newsletter please do get in touch.

Jakki & Sue




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