Thank you to everyone who has contacted me recently about the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill and the related campaign by 38 Degrees.
I completely agree with your concerns that this bill fails to put the interests of vulnerable adults first and contains a conflict of interest concerning independent providers of health and care services. I believe the Government must immediately pause its progress to give time for proper consultation with interested groups.
As you may be aware, the bill seeks to amend the Mental Capacity Act 2005 in relation to deprivation of liberty where a person lacks the capacity to consent. At present, the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLs) is an assessment carried out on an individual who does not have the mental capacity to make decisions about their care.
The DoLs is widely criticised as complex, costly and inadequate in protecting human rights and I agree that it needs reform. However, the Government’s proposals are deeply flawed, and I believe it would replace one bad system with another. I am concerned that ministers are more interested in cutting the costs of assessments than safeguarding the human rights of vulnerable people with dementia, autism and learning disabilities.
Charities representing people with dementia, learning disabilities and autistic people, in addition to directors of adult social care services and organisations representing social workers, have been unanimous in their agreement that the Bill is deeply flawed.
The Government rejected crucial Opposition amendments to the Bill, which would have removed the clear conflict of interest that will see care homes and independent hospitals making arrangements that deprive vulnerable people of their liberty. These concerns were echoed in a report by the Joint Committee for Human Rights last year.
In December, I voted for an Opposition amendment that would have prevented the Bill from making any further progress. However, the Government voted against it and the Bill passed its second reading debate. Ministers also rejected all 34 amendments proposed by the Opposition during committee stage. It will now progress to report stage on a date which is yet to be announced.
The proposals in this bill have the scope to affect the rights of a large portion of the estimated two million people thought to lack capacity to make their own decisions. The decision to deprive someone of their liberty should be an issue that is treated with the utmost respect, thought and care.
I remain concerned that the Government’s approach has shown few of those qualities, and I will continue to oppose this Bill in parliament.