Social care organisations write to minister over mental capacity changes

Social care organisations write to minister over mental capacity changes
Care Minister Caroline Dinenage MP

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

They believe in its current form the Bill will adversely affect the rights of people who rely on care and support services.

The letter, which has also been sent to Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health (Lords) Baroness Nicola Blackwood, raises concerns about the content, progress and passage of the Bill and is a response to correspondence sent by Dinenage last week, which tried to clarify the government’s position.

The organisations describe the consultation by the Department of Health and Social Care as ‘piecemeal’ and argue that it is ‘unclear’ what sector evidence has been used to inform the changes.

‘Second, serious conflicts of interest will be placed upon care managers who will be in control of key information about assessments and review processes,’ the letter says.

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,’ it says.

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 and save councils an estimated £200m a year.

It 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’.

Concerns over the Bill were originally raised in September, while a month later a group of MPs said further changes were needed to protect the human rights of vulnerable people.

Voyage Care, Hft, Choice Care Group, National Care Forum, Care England and Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG) are a handful of signatories of the letter.

It calls on the government to pause and work with the sector to ensure there is no erosion to human rights protections for people who lack capacity and rely on care services; be more open and transparent about the process; resolve the conflict of interest regarding care managers; and co-produce draft legislation and adequately fund the changes it will bring.

Dr Rhidian Hughes, VODG chief executive, said: ‘It is not fair that over 125,000 people are being deprived of their liberty through a failing system. There is no question that mental capacity legislation requires 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. 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.’

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson 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.’