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Draft Mental Incapacity Bill welcomed by charities

Issue date: 27 June 2003

The Making Decisions Alliance has welcomed today's House of Commons statement showing that publication of a draft Mental Incapacity Bill is imminent.

The Alliance said publication of the Bill would be “the beginning of the end of fourteen years of growing frustration, and good news for the millions of people who are likely to be affected.”

The Bill, to be published in draft form, promises similar rights to people with impaired capacity and those who care for them in England and Wales, as those already enshrined in Scottish Law*.

The draft Mental Incapacity Bill aims to put into law the principle that all adults are assumed to have capacity to make decisions for themselves. This is vital for people who are currently often wrongly assumed to be incapable of making decisions - for example, people with dementia, people with profound learning disabilities, severe mental health problems, autism or severe head injuries.

The new Bill promises to give them more control over issues such as the treatment they receive, how they spend their money and where and how they live. It will also allow them to plan for the future by appointing specific people such as family members or carers to make day-to-day decisions on their behalf.

Richard Kramer, Co-Chair of the Making Decisions Alliance, said:

“The imminent publication of the draft Mental Incapacity Bill represents a real victory for the Making Decisions Alliance - members have been campaigning to get the Government to act on this issue for 14 years.”

“We will be working over the summer with officials and members of the
parliamentary committee that will examine the Bill in greater detail, to ensure that the final Bill gets the balance right between protecting people who have difficulty making decisions and empowering those who can to make as many decisions as possible.

The emphasis should be on supporting people, as far as possible, to make decisions for themselves. This needs to be reflected in legislation.”

Many organisations representing professionals, such as The Law Society, the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), have also called for new legislation to provide clear guidelines on who can make decisions and when. Professionals are often unsure about what the law allows them to do to ensure the patient gets the necessary treatment. As a result, they are at risk of being accused of malpractice while patients are vulnerable to abuse.

The Making Decisions Alliance (MDA) believes that the Bill must address certain key areas if it is to make a real difference. These are:

  • Advocacy - the MDA wants the Government to commit resources to ensure that adults should be able to access an advocate to support them to make decisions or to be involved in the decision-making process
  • Assessment - the MDA believes that before important decisions are taken on behalf of an adult, their capacity to make decisions for themselves must be
    assessed
  • Advance statements - the MDA wants to see advance statements given proper legal status. These provide the opportunity for adults with capacity, to state their wishes and plans in advance on subjects such as finance, health and care, in case in the future they become temporarily or permanently unable to make decisions or communicate their wishes.

Paul Farmer, Chair of the Mental Health Alliance which was set up to campaign for better mental health legislation said: "We welcome the imminent draft Mental Incapacity Bill. It will help to provide greater security for people with mental health problems and allow for greater individual control over care and treatment. This is a piece of the jigsaw that could help the government build consensus around a new Mental Health Act that does not rely so heavily on the draconian use of compulsion."

ENDS

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Notes to Editors

*(Adults with incapacity (Scotland))

For further information contact Celia Richardson 020 7802 0312 or crichardson@mhf.org.uk

Notes to Editors

Member organisations of the Making Decisions Alliance are: Action on Elder Abuse, Age Concern England, Alzheimer's Society, Caring Matters, The Centre for Policy on Ageing, The Down’s Syndrome Association, Headway, Help the Aged, Leonard Cheshire, Mencap, The Mental Health Foundation, Mind, The National Autistic Society, Patient Concern, The Relatives and Residents Association, Respond, Rethink, Scope, Sense, The Stroke Association and Turning Point, United Reponse, Kent Autistic Trust, Counsel and Care, Addavoice and POPAN.

Campaigns packs are available from www.makingdecisons.org.uk

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The information on this page was provided by members of the Making Decisions Alliance. It was last updated on27 June 2003

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This website is run on behalf of the Making Decisions Alliance by the Mental Health Foundation / Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, 9th Floor, Sea Containers House, 20 Upper Ground, London SE1 9QB. Tel: +44 (0)20 7803 1100. Press office tel: +44 (0)20 7803 1281. Email: mhf@mhf.org.uk Website: www.mentalhealth.org.uk

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