MPs call for deprivation of liberty clarification

Further changes are needed to the government’s Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill to protect the human rights of vulnerable people, a group of MPs have said.

They want the definition of ‘deprivation of liberty’ to be clarified to avoid potential conflicts of interest for care home managers.

As reported last month, representative bodies expressed concerns regarding responsibilities care home managers would be under from proposals set out in the government’s bill.

The legislation, which aims to better protect vulnerable people and ease the burden on local authorities, involves streamlining Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) to help reassure families as well as save councils an estimated £200m a year.

The bill comes on the back of a Law Commission review that highlighted problems with DoLS and proposed they be ‘replaced as a matter of pressing urgency’.

Under proposals, for those living in care homes responsibility for undertaking or arranging the assessments required before a deprivation of liberty can be authorised would in future fall to care home managers.

A Joint Committee on Human Rights report said it shares concerns expressed by disabled people, professional bodies, service providers and lawyers that in practice care home managers will face conflicts of interest that will hinder their ability to make objective assessments. The report proposes amendments to the bill to enhance these safeguards.

Committee chair Harriet Harman MP (pictured) said: ‘The human rights of vulnerable people who lack mental capacity must be protected with a more robust system of safeguards. We must give cared-for people, their families and professionals greater certainty by providing a clear definition: the bill must be changed if it is to do that.’

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘Our Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill will reform a broken system and reduce the number of vulnerable people waiting for access to essential protections by simplifying the process and making it less burdensome.

‘We are listening to feedback to ensure the bill delivers effective reform and will make changes to achieve this. The bill ensures authorisations in care homes are determined by responsible bodies such as local authorities or NHS organisations, who will carefully scrutinise applications made.’