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General Advocacy

An advocate is a person who supports and helps you to explain and say what you want if you find it difficult to do by yourself.

Advocates can help you -

  • access information and services
  • be involved in decisions about your life
  • explore choices and options
  • defend and promote your rights and responsibilities
  • speak out about issues that matter to you

Aside from people who know you well, there are also professional advocacy services, such as

  • Professional Advocacy service
  • Money management advocates like the Citizens Advice Bureau

Search for an advocate on our Community Directory.

Advocacy under the Care Act

Adult Social Care will refer you to an independent care act advocacy service if you have substantial difficulty in being involved with the assessment of your needs, care planning, or care reviews and you have no appropriate person to help you be engaged. This may be people who -

  • have a learning disability
  • have autism
  • are older
  • have a physical disability
  • people who have a sensory loss
  • misuse substances
  • are a carer, including young carers
  • are a young person aged 16-18 in transition to Adult Services

Assessing 'substantial difficulty'

Adult Social Care must consider whether you have ‘substantial difficulty’ in any one of the following areas -

  • understanding relevant information
  • retaining that information
  • using or weighing that information as part of the process of being involved
  • communicating the individual’s views, wishes, or feelings (whether by talking, using sign language, or any other means)

Sometimes it will be possible to help and support a person's direct involvement through making reasonable adjustments, as required by the Equality Act, such as providing information in accessible formats.

Appropriate person

Advocates can be used when you have no appropriate person to help you. Someone who is considered as an 'appropriate person must be someone who you want to support you and it cannot be someone who is already providing you with care or treatment in a professional capacity or on a paid basis.

Your wish not to be supported by an individual should be respected. Where a person does not wish to be supported by a relative, for example, perhaps because they wish to be moving towards independence from their family, then the Council cannot consider the relative appropriate.

Role of the independent advocate

An independent advocate’s role is to support and represent the person, always with regard to their wellbeing and interests, including helping a person to -

  • understand the process
  • communicate their wishes, views and feelings
  • make decisions
  • challenge decisions made by the local authority if the person wishes
  • understand their rights
  • when appropriate, support and represent them in the safeguarding process

Useful Contacts

Dorset Advocacy

Dorset Mental Health Forum

Help and Care Advocacy If you are not sure if you are eligible for the service, please get in touch. Call 0300 111 3303 or email 

Advocacy under the Mental Capacity Act

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 introduced the role of the independent mental capacity advocate (IMCA) to be a legal safeguard for people who lack the capacity to make specific important decisions such as where they live and about serious medical treatment options. Read our information regarding Mental Capacity.

Who IMCAs are for?

The IMCA service must be provided for any person aged 16 years or older, who has no one able to support and represent them, and who lacks the capacity to make a decision about -

  • a long-term care move
  • serious medical treatment (including discussions about do not resuscitate orders)
  • adult protection procedures
  • a care review

Such a person will have a condition that is affecting their ability to make decisions. Many factors can affect a person’s capacity such as -

  • acquired brain injury
  • learning disability
  • mental Illness
  • dementia
  • effects of alcohol or drug misuse

Capacity can also be affected by other illnesses, trauma, or other factors. A person’s capacity may vary over time or may depend on the type of decision that needs to be made.

Assessing lack of mental capacity

The Mental Capacity Act (MCA) requires ‘decision-specific’ assessments of capacity. A person is assessed as lacking the ability to make a decision and needing an IMCA if they have an impairment to the mind or brain and because of this they cannot do one or more of the following:

  • understand the information given to them about the decision
  • retain the information for long enough to make the decision
  • use or weigh up the information as part of the decision-making process
  • cannot communicate their decision (by any means, for example, talking, sign language, or blinking)

The assessment must be specific to the decision which needs to be made and not a generic test of capacity.

Role of the IMCA

The IMCA will -

  • establish the referred person’s preferred method of communication
  • meet with the referred person and use a variety of methods, as appropriate, to ascertain their views
  • consult with staff, professionals and anyone else who knows the person well who are involved in delivering care, support, and treatment
  • gather any relevant written documents and other information
  • attend meetings to represent the person raising issues and questions as appropriate
  • present information to decision-maker verbally and via a written report
  • remain involved until a decision has been made and be aware that the proposed action has been taken
  • audit the best interests decision-making process
  • challenge the decision if necessary (including possibly going to the Court of Protection when decisions cannot be agreed upon)

Getting an IMCA

Getting a referral for an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate is usually initiated by the ‘decision maker’. This is a person in authority who has ultimate responsibility for making best interest decisions for the person involved.

For serious medical treatment decision - this is usually the consultant or medical practitioner

For accommodation decisions - this is usually the care manager or social care practitioner

Others can make a referral but the decision-maker should be made aware. Before being referred the client must have been assessed and deemed to lack capacity.

Dorset Advocacy provides the IMCA service in Dorset.