People First, an organisation led by people with learning difficulties, is appealing for support against changes which the government is planning to make to the Mental Capacity Act via its Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill.

The situation is now urgent, because the Bill is already progressing within Parliament. The Mental Capacity Act itself falls short of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

If the Bill becomes law in its current form, there will be further breaches of human rights, for example:

  • At the moment, people can be deprived of their liberty in care homes and hospitals, controversial though this is. The Bill would widen these powers: allow deprivation of liberty in any place, or situation
  • The current Mental Capacity Act allows people to be deprived of their liberty if they are thought to be a risk to themselves. If the Bill becomes an Act, these powers will be extended to people thought to be a risk to others. In addition, the Bill does not require the decision made in such situations to be in a person’s ‘best interests’
  • The Bill does not stipulate that deprivation of liberty is a last resort, still less that deprivation is, in any case, a breach of human rights
  • Currently, a local authority can only decide that people should be deprived of their liberty if they live in a care home, or hospital. All other cases have to go to court. In addition, local authorities have had to get independent assessments made. Under the Bill, the care manager will have responsibility for organising assessments if someone lives in a care home and local authorities, hospital managers, or clinical commissioning groups will organise assessments for people living in all other places
  • All deprivation of liberty cases will be reviewed. However, an independent, approved mental capacity professional will only be involved if people oppose the deprivation of liberty. In addition, the professionals named above will be the people to decide whether someone is objecting to the deprivation of their liberty. They will also be the people to decide whether it would be good for someone to have an independent advocate
  • The Bill does not require that professionals speak to an individual, tell him/her what is happening, find out what s/he thinks and give weight to his/her wishes
  • At the moment, people can decide for themselves who makes decisions about them. The new Bill does not make it clear whether the latter will be able to say ‘no’ to deprivations of liberty
  • The government has not produced information about the Bill in accessible formats
  • There has also been no consultation about the Bill with organisations of disabled people
  • Quite apart from the fact that the current Mental Capacity Act is non-compliant with the UNCRPD, the Bill itself is in breach of some key UNCRPD Articles, for example Articles 12, 14, 17, 19.

People First is a user-led organisation, just as NSUN is, and is supporting NSUN’s opposition to the approach being taken to the Mental Health Act Review. It would be great if, in turn, NSUN members can support People First with their concerns about the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill.

If the Bill goes through in its current form, there will also be serious implications for NSUN members who have learning difficulties. In addition, if the Bill becomes law, it will bode badly for the sorts of human rights changes that we want under the Mental Health Act Review.

If you think you would be willing to support People First with its campaign about the Bill, please urgently contact Andrew Lee, Director of People First, at [email protected], copying it to Dorothy Gould at [email protected]

You just need to supply your contact details and indicate whether you are emailing him as an organisation, or an individual.

The situation is pressing because of the parliamentary stage reached by the Bill.

Andrew will then be in touch about what would help most, for example signing up to challenges to the Bill from People First.