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Keywords:

  • advocacy services;
  • IMCA;
  • learning disability services;
  • Mental Capacity Act

Background  The aim of this study was to evaluate the extent to which care managers in learning disability services understand the role of the Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA) service, and the difference between the newly created statutory IMCA and existing general advocacy (GA) services.

Method  There were 22 participants from three community teams within learning disabilities services, all but one of whom had attended training on the Mental Capacity Act (2005). Participants completed a questionnaire based on a set of nine scenarios where they were asked to identify the appropriate professional to contact in relation to the situation described, and to explain what their role would be.

Results  Respondents’ understanding of these issues was generally poor. There was a substantially less than 50% correct response rate for identification of scenarios that called for an IMCA referral, and respondents’ ability to discriminate between the roles of GA and IMCA was limited. Only around half of the respondents correctly identified that the function of advocacy is to represent the client’s views, and a significant minority incorrectly attributed decision-making functions to the IMCA. Only a single participant identified the statutory requirement to involve an IMCA in relation to a change of long-term accommodation (where the person lacks capacity and has no other non-professional support), and none of the participants identified this as a statutory requirement in relation to serious medical treatment.

Conclusion  A better understanding of the statutory functions of the IMCA service may require a different approach to Mental Capacity Act training.