Mental health and disability rights
To protect vulnerable people, the Government must fix the Mental Capacity Amendment Bill
Posted by Sam Grant on 14 Jan 2019
Once described in Parliament as ‘one of the worst pieces of legislation ever brought before this house,’ the Bill returns to the House of Commons on 15 January
Mental health and capacity issues affect all of us, whether directly or through people we care about. It is critical that the law protects our rights, while ensuring people who need it get the best possible care.
That’s why the failings in the Mental Capacity Amendment Bill should concern everyone. They water down safeguards and disregard the rights of some of the most vulnerable among us.
Once described in Parliament as ‘one of the worst pieces of legislation ever brought before this house,’ the Bill is due to reach Committee stage in the House of Commons on 15 January, and recent improvements simply do not go far enough.
In its current form the Bill will:
- Triple the time for which someone can be deprived of their liberty, from one year to three
- Reduce access to appeal processes and independent advocates
- Introduce potential conflicts of interest in this process by putting decision-making in the hands of care home mangers
This flawed legislation was introduced before anyone has seen the Government’s full response to the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act, which made recommendations directly relevant to this Bill, including calling for a reduction in the detention time period under the Mental Health Act to six months. The Independent Review also has clear implications for this Bill regarding the dividing line between the Mental Health Act and the Mental Capacity Act.
More worryingly, the Government is still to introduce an up-to-date impact assessment outlining the Bill’s costs or a code of practice which will guide professionals on how to implement the new law on the ground.
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.
To fix the Bill, the Government urgently must:
- Reduce the renewal period from three years down to one year
- Remove any conflict of interest between those caring for people and those making decisions on whether someone should be deprived of their liberty
- Ensure cared-for people can access the support of independent advocates
- Provide a code of practice and impact assessment so that the Bill can be properly scrutinised by MPs
Liberty is precious, whatever your mental state. On behalf of the hundreds of thousands of us in the UK who live with, and care for, mental illness, we urge the Government to take the time needed to set out legislation that actually serves the people who need protection most.
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