“Our society must make it right and possible for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them, for the test of a civilisation is the way that it cares for its helpless members” – so said the American writer and recipient of the Nobel prize for literature, Pearl Buck.
Today, is day one of the committee stage in the House of Lords, when peers will consider the provisions of the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill – legislation intended to simplify the procedure which regulates how a person who cannot consent is deprived of their liberty for the purposes of receiving care and treatment. Those most affected by these provisions will be the elderly, and individuals with learning disabilities, autism or other cognitive impairments; people who may struggle to have their voice heard or need support in exercising their rights as citizens.
The Bill has been criticised widely – by advocates, social care professionals, care providers and campaigning organisations such as Age UK. Yesterday, the Law Society published its briefing on the Bill, to be found here
Rather than placing the person who is being deprived of their liberty at the heart of the process, the proposed procedure in the bill includes no obligation to even consult the cared for person. Further there is no requirement to provide the person with information on how they may challenge their loss of liberty.
These obvious omissions may be quickly rectified as the bill works its way through the parliamentary process, but they demonstrate the need to be vigilant – watchful always to ensure that our desire for expediency and simplicity does not result in a quiet stripping away of the fundamental freedoms that less vulnerable members of society take for granted. It is telling that our news feeds have not picked up on the passage of this important piece of legislation, which will probably impact many of us directly, in the years to come.
Greenchurch Legal Services Limited opened its doors this week – as a specialist Court of Protection and private client solicitors, based in North Staffordshire.
We work with people who have impaired capacity, and those who love and care for them. We are committed to giving the wishes and feelings of our clients the attention and priority they deserve. We like to work in partnership with clients and their families, offering support but not imposing our own views and values.
We aim to play our part – albeit a small one – in supporting people who may struggle to find their voice, helping them to exercise their rights and to live the lives they choose.
Sheree is Director of Greenchurch Legal Services and Chair of the Law Society Mental Health and Disability Committee