Advocacy in mental health

Explains what advocacy is and how it can help you. Gives information on different types of advocacy, including statutory advocates, what sort of situations an advocate can help you with, and how to find an advocate.

What are my legal rights to an advocate?

In some situations you might be legally entitled to get the support of an advocate. This is called 'statutory advocacy'. There are three types of statutory advocates in England and Wales. These are:

  • Independent Mental Health Advocates (IMHAs). These are specially trained advocates who can support certain patients under the Mental Health Act 1983. The law regarding IMHAs is different in England and Wales. For more information on whether you're entitled to an IMHA, and how to access one, see our pages on:
  • Independent Mental Capacity Advocates (IMCAs). These are specially trained advocates who can support certain people under the Mental Capacity Act 2005. For more information on whether you're entitled to an IMCA, and how to access one, see our page on IMCAs.
  • Social care advocates. These can support certain people under the Care Act 2014 (in England) and the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act (in Wales). For more information on whether you're entitled to a social care advocate, see our page on social care advocates.

What's the difference between an IMHA and an IMCA?

  • IMHAs support people who are being assessed or receiving treatment under the Mental Health Act 1983.
  • IMCAs support people who lack capacity to make certain decisions and are provided under the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

The same person might be qualified to act as both an IMHA and an IMCA, but they are very different roles. See our pages on the Mental Health Act 1983 and the Mental Capacity Act 2005 for more information.

If you're not entitled to any advocacy by law, there are still lots of ways you can access and get support from an advocate in the community. See our page on types of advocacy for more information.

This information was published in March 2018. We will revise it in 2020.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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