IMCA (Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy) and Safeguarding.

Some people have difficulties making important decisions because of their health condition or disability.  An IMCA can make sure their wishes and views are taken into account.

Click the links below for information about our IMCA service, how to make a referral and answers to some of our frequently asked questions.

What's an IMCA?

IMCA stands for Independent Mental Capacity Advocate.

IMCAs are independent of social and health services.  The IMCA role was defined in the  Mental Capacity Act (2005) to provide independent support for people who have no-one else (other than paid staff) to support or represent them.  If the person’s disability or health condition means they lack capacity to make a decision, an IMCA can help find out their views and make sure they are taken into account.

Dorset Advocacy IMCAs help vulnerable people where there are concerns about their safety. If the Council needs to make a decision to safeguard them, we’ll make sure the person’s views and wishes are heard.


What does mental capacity mean?

Mental capacity under the Act is assessed in terms of making decisions. Someone lacking capacity – because of an illness or disability such as a mental health problem, dementia or a learning disability – can’t do one or more of the following four things:

  • Understand information given to them about a particular decision
  • Retain that information long enough to be able to make the decision
  • Weigh up the information available to make the decision
  • Communicate their decision.

Sometimes a person may have capacity to make some decisions and not others.  For example, someone may be able choose what to wear every day but may not be able to decide where to live.

Health and social workers must assess the person’s capacity to make each major decision. If they lack capacity, a professional has to make the decision for them in their best interests. This professional is called the best interest decision-maker.

What do IMCAs do?

Our IMCAs will:

  • Spend time with the person on their own where possible. They’ll get to know them and to learn about their situation, wishes and preferences.
  • Speak to paid workers, professionals and other people who know the person and get their views.
  • Ensure that the person’s views are considered and form part of the decision-making process.
  • Write a report for the decision maker. The law says they must consider this report when making the decision.
  • Challenge the decision if the decision maker doesn’t take the IMCA’s report into consideration.
Who can have a Dorset Advocacy IMCA?

Serious medical treatment and change of accommodation

We can provide an IMCA for someone who:

  • Is over 16;  And
  • Is currently in the Dorset Council or BCP Council area.  It doesn’t matter if they don’t normally live in Dorset, if they are here temporarily, they can have an IMCA.  And
  • They need to make a decision about:
    • a long-term change in accommodation, or
    • serious medical treatment.


  • Social Service or NHS staff have assessed the person as not having capacity to make the decision.  And
  • There are no unpaid people, such as a family member or close friend, who are “appropriate to consult”


We can provide an IMCA for someone who:

  • Is over 16;  And
  • Is currently in the Dorset Council or BCP Council area.  It doesn’t matter if they don’t normally live in Dorset, if they are here temporarily, they can have an IMCA.  And
  • They are the subject of a current safeguarding enquiry
Who can make a referral for a Dorset Advocacy IMCA?

IMCA referrals must come from social services or the NHS.

Members of the public cannot make a referral to Dorset Advocacy for an IMCA. If you know of someone you think needs an IMCA for a particular decision, you should contact the local authority.

I need to make a decision about care for someone who lacks capacity

If the issue is not Safeguarding, Change of Accommodation or Serious Medical Treatment and you’re assessing or reviewing services for someone, please request a Care Act advocate. If it turns out the person will need to move, you would then need to request an IMCA.

Make a referral for an IMCA

If you are a professional who wants to instruct an IMCA for a person permanently or temporarily resident in Dorset, we need the following.

Serious medical treatment and change of accommodation referrals

  1.  Dorset Advocacy IMCA referral form 
  2. If the person has any friends and family, the  Family Checklist. The decision-maker must explain why the family or friends are not considered to be appropriate to consult.
  3. A copy of the person’s capacity assessment showing they lack capacity to make the decision. We can’t accept change or accommodation or serious medical treatment referrals without a capacity assessment.

Safeguarding referrals

  1.  Safeguarding Referral Form There must be an open Safeguarding enquiry and the Safeguarding officer would normally be the Best Interest Decision Maker.
  2. A copy of the person’s capacity assessment if you have it.

Where to return the forms

Return the forms to via encrypted email. Please make sure all emails containing clients’ personal information are encrypted.