Joint Committee on the Draft Mental Incapacity Bill Written Evidence

81.Memorandum from Cardiff People First (MIB 746)

  We think the bill will be helpful for people:

    —  who are traditionally recognised as being able to make decisions, then for some reason lose that capacity;

    —  who have never had the capacity to make decisions.

        The bill will not be helpful for people;

    —  who traditionally were not viewed as being capable of making decisions for themselves, people with a learning disability.

  We are an organisation for people with a learning disability, led by people with a learning disability. Members find that many people think they are not capable of making decisions when they are. Many members find other people decide for them. Some people will make decisions which suit them, not the person with a learning disability. So some people with a learning disability are afraid that staff/parents/carers/others will use the Bill to boss them around, stop them from doing things and make them do things they don't want to.

  The Bill is clear what happens in cases where the person does not have capacity to make decisions. But we would like to ask what happens when the person is capable of making decisions but does not have the opportunity to do so or is not allowed to? Going to court seems a bit heavy.

  More needs to be included in the Bill to protect the rights of people with a learning disability to make their own decisions. Services are needed to support people to make those decisions. The public need to know that people with a learning disability are capable of making decisions for themselves unless proved otherwise.

  We liked the idea that the Bill assumes people have capacity unless determined otherwise. At the Department of Constitutional Affairs workshop in Cardiff in July it was explained that the Bill over time hopes to change attitudes to decision-making by people with a learning disability. This is good. But the Bill needs to do more to protect that right to make decisions until attitudes have changed.

  Also, the Bill is okay if people stick to the rules. If people don't, there needs to be an accessible complaints procedure. More independent advocates are needed, to support people who can make their own decisions but find others don't listen or won't let them make decisions.

  We would also like to ask who decides if a person is incapable of making decisions for themselves? Some people with learning disabilities are worried that just anybody who claims to have their best interests in mind will be able to take over their lives. So how is this decided? Would there be checks to make sure this did not happen? How do people complain if they disagree with the decision?

  It is important that the judges in the Court of Protection and Public Guardians are chosen carefully and have experience of these issues.

  We would also like to ask, who is going to decide when the deputies take over making decisions from people?

  We do not like the term Mental Incapacity.

  If the bill becomes law, our ideas for telling people about this are:

    —  Television/adverts

    —  Radio

    —  Helpline

    —  Mobile information unit

    —  Social workers/doctors etc.

August 2003

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