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Letter reiterates concern over new mental capacity laws

March 4, 2019

More than 100 social care organisations have signed an open letter to care minister Caroline Dinenage seeking clarification and change to aspects of the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill.

The letter raises concerns about the content, progress and passage of the Bill and is a response to correspondence from the minister in early February which tried to clarify the Government’s position.

The organisations believe that, in its current form the Bill will adversely affect the rights of people who rely on care and support services and describe the consultation by the Department of Health and Social Care as ‘piecemeal’ arguing that it is unclear what sector evidence has been used to inform the changes.

One of the signatories, VODG chief executive Dr Rhidian Hughes said the present failing system meant that more than 125,000 people were being deprived of their liberty and that there was no question that mental capacity legislation required significant improvement.

“But government should not be airbrushing existing safeguards away with these entirely unfit proposals which only seem to be designed to save money,” said Dr Hughes.

“We are calling for the passage of the Bill to be paused to allow time for government and members of the committee to genuinely work with the sector to get this legislation right.” The letter to the minister says serious conflicts of interest will be placed on care managers who will be in control of key information about assessments and review processes. It also points out that impact assessments have been ‘late and limited in coverage’, with no guidance or code of practice that the sector can comment on.

“Nor is there clarity about how the proposed system will be regulated with independent oversight,” the letter says.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care has said: “This Bill has vulnerable people at its heart – currently they face a backlogged and bureaucratic system which must be reformed urgently, and we have consulted extensively with the sector and individuals and carers on the changes.

“Care home managers have a role to play in collecting information and identifying a need for safeguards, as they do already, but will never conduct or authorise assessments themselves.

“We will consult on a comprehensive code of practice for the Bill and are working with a wide range of organisations to ensure these reforms truly promote and protect vulnerable people’s liberty.”

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