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MDA broadly welcomes Government's response to Joint Committee's recommendations on the Draft Mental Incapacity Bill

Issue date: 24 February 2004

The Making Decisions Alliance (MDA) today welcomed the Government's response to the Joint Committee's recommendations on the draft Mental Incapacity Bill. The Bill would benefit the lives of millions of people, including people with dementia, people with learning disabilities, mental health problems, autism, or severe head injuries.

The MDA is a coalition of 30 charities who have joined together to campaign on the issue of Mental Capacity.

Co-chair of the MDA, Richard Kramer said:

"We welcome the Government's response and we are pleased that it endorses many of the MDA's recommendations. In particular, we are glad the Government has recognised the need to ensure that core principles of empowering people, including the presumption of capacity and supporting people to make decisions, are at the heart of the Bill. This will strengthen the Bill and firmly place the emphasis on individuals' rights to make their own decisions when they can. A commitment to changing the Bill's name would further enhance this as a rights-based approach to legislation."

"Thirty voluntary sector organisations are campaigning for this Bill and it has been 15 years since the process began. It is time the law was introduced to Parliament. Doing so will greatly benefit millions of people by creating a much needed framework and safeguards for how decisions may be made when someone lacks capacity. This will empower them, their families and friends."

The MDA is a consortium of 30 voluntary organisations that has campaigned for parliamentary time for the draft Mental Incapacity Bill. The Bill would benefit the lives of millions of people, including people with dementia, people with learning disabilities, mental health problems, autism, or severe head injuries.

There are still 2 key areas the MDA would like to see addressed before the government publishes the Bill in the summer:

Advocacy

Despite the recommendations of the Joint Committee, there is no commitment from the Government that advocacy will be available when key decisions need to be made and there are doubts as to whether the person has the right to decide for themselves. These decisions could be about whether to undergo invasive surgery, long-term treatment or where people live. There is a risk that the Bill will not achieve its aim of enabling people to take more control of their lives unless advocates have a central role in representing those affected.

The scope of the General Authority

The Government is amending the proposed power for decision making (the General Authority) to a mechanism for justifying decisions already taken. But they have failed to make a distinction in the Bill between different types of decisions, or the seriousness of the decision to be made. The MDA thinks that this may not provide sufficient protection and wants certain serious decisions, covering areas such as medical treatment and where someone lives, to be outside of the general power and to have additional safeguards. This will make sure that where serious decisions are made on someone's behalf, there are mechanisms to make sure they are taken in that person's best interest.

ENDS

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Notes to Editors

The MDA is a consortium of 30 voluntary organisations that has campaigned for parliamentary time for the draft Mental Incapacity Bill. The Bill would benefit the lives of millions of people, including people with dementia, people with learning disabilities, mental health problems, autism, or severe head injuries.

The current lack of legislation means there's still a gap in the law around those who find it difficult to make or communicate decisions. People are being left vulnerable and unsupported to make decisions for themselves. Carers are unsure of their rights to be consulted on the treatment the people they care for receive. Legislation will mean that individuals have the legal right to make decisions for themselves.

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, Turning Point, United Response, Kent Autistic Trust, Counsel and Care, Addavoice and POPAN.

Contact: Michele Harris, Senior PR Officer, Mencap 020 7696 5594. Email: michele.harris@mencap.org.uk

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The information on this page was provided by members of the Making Decisions Alliance. It was last updated on2 March 2004.

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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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