Mental health and disability rights

The Mental Capacity Amendment Bill could put vulnerable people at risk

Posted on 22 Jan 2019

In a joint letter, Liberty and 12 other organisations call on the Government to fix the legislation before it is too late

We write as a coalition of national charities who work with and advocate on behalf of people with dementia, learning disability, autism, acquired brain injury and mental health concerns. Collectively our organisations support and advocate for some of the most vulnerable people in society.

As such, it is with dismay that we note the lack of improvement within the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill. The Bill has been criticised in the House of Lords, and by human rights NGOs, service providers, academics and national mental health and capacity organisations. Time is of the essence, as the Bill continues to progress through parliament.

The Bill aims to replace current Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) with an entirely unfit new system of protection. To avoid the risk of exploitation and abuse it is vital that there are robust safeguards in place. These safeguards should ensure those who lack the mental capacity to consent to their care arrangements have their fundamental rights upheld; that they receive the least restrictive care possible and are not detained for longer than necessary.

Alarmingly the Bill proposes to triple the time people can be deprived of their liberty without review – from one to three years – whilst not doing enough to guarantee that all patients have access to independent and impartial advocates or ensure that patients are given information to understand their rights. The Government has not yet clarified how additional protections would translate for 16 and17 year olds who are now in scope of the new system. The Bill also creates a worrying conflict of interest for care home managers, giving them a greater role in the assessment process. Many vulnerable people will find it hard to express their concerns to a person providing them with care.

On top of this, the Government has published the Bill before anyone has seen its full response to the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act – a review with clear implications for this Bill around the dividing line between the Mental Health Act and the Mental Capacity Act.

Furthermore, there has there been no up-to-date impact assessment outlining the costs of the legislation, nor a code of practice setting out how it must be implemented on the ground. History shows us that a Bill which exists without a clearly defined implementation and funding strategy will not achieve change in practice.

The result is a rushed, incomplete and unworkable Bill that will only replace one dysfunctional system with another, and for which MPs will be unable to provide meaningful scrutiny in the House.

We urge the Government to reflect on the remaining challenges within the Bill and take the time needed to set out a unified proposal that actually serves the people who need our protection most.


National Autistic Society, Mark Lever, Chief Executive
POhWER, Mark Lister, CEO
Parkinson’s UK, Steve Ford, Chief Executive
Liberty, Corey Stoughton, Advocacy Director
The British Institute of Human Rights, Sanchita Hosali, Director
Sense, Richard Kramer, Chief Executive
Compassion in Dying, Sarah Wootton, CEO
Mind, Paul Farmer, CEO
YoungMinds, Emma Thomas, Chief Executive
Learning Disability England, Samantha Clark, Chief Executive
Voluntary Organisations Disability Group, Rhidian Hughes, CEO
Alzheimer’s Society, Jeremy Hughes, CEO
Headway, Peter McCabe, Chief Executive

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