Glossary of Social Care Terms

Below is a list of commonly used social care terms that we feel sometimes need a little more explanation. 

Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA)

IMHA services provide an additional safeguard for patients who are subject to the Mental Health Act.  Issues usually surround their care, treatment, rights and raising concerns.

Independent Mental Capacity Advocacy (IMCA)

IMCA services are a statutory advocacy requirement for people lacking capacity about accommodation, serious medical treatment, Safeguarding, Care Review and/or where their liberty is being deprived. 

Assessment and Treatment Units (ATU)

Specialist in-patient services for people with learning disabilities.

Best interests decisions

Any act done or decision made on behalf of a person who lacks capacity must be done or made in their best interests.


Capacity means a person’s ability to make a decision about a particular matter at the time the decision needs to be made.

Community Treatment Order (CTO)

Community Treatment Order is a power given to under the Mental Health Act to place certain conditions on former inpatients in mental health provision which they must follow when they have left hospital.


People who use services working together as equals with professionals from the start to the end of any project that affects them.

Court of Protection

The Court of Protection is a specialist court for all issues relating to people who lack capacity to make specific decisions.

Deprivation of liberty Safeguards (DoLS)

Known as DOLS, these safeguards form part of the Mental Capacity Act. They apply to people who are 18 years of age or over, living or staying in a care home or hospital who lack mental capacity to consent to arrangements for their care or treatment.

NHS Complaints Advocacy

Provision of advocacy to support someone to make and pursue a complaint about a service provided or funded by the NHS.

Non-instructed advocacy (NIA)

Non-instructed advocacy takes place when the person is unable to instruct or tell the person what they want


Person who uses our service, commonly referred to as a ‘partner’ within VoiceAbility.

Personalisation / Person Centred Care

Personalisation means starting with the person as an individual with strengths, preferences and aspirations and putting them at the centre of the process of identifying their needs and making choices about how and when they are supported to live their lives. 

Professional Advocacy

Advocacy provided by suitably qualified member of staff but not specifically required under primary legislation.

Relevant person’s representative (RPR)

A person, independent of the relevant hospital or care home, appointed to maintain contact with a person under a DoLS, and to represent and support the relevant person in all matters relating to the operation of the deprivation of liberty safeguards.


Safeguarding refers to measures that can be taken to protect from abuse or neglect children as well as to adults who have care and support needs.