Joint Committee on the Draft Mental Incapacity Bill Minutes of Evidence

39.Memorandum from Mr Simon Cramp (MIB 1179)

  My Name is Simon Cramp, and I am a person with a mild Learning Disability. I am a trustee of two major charities—Royal Mencap Society, and a Housing Association called New Dimensions Group which through its operating companies provides housing to people with Learning Disabilities. I am also a Freelance Consultant working in the field of Advocacy and promoting people's rights. I am also involved in a lot of the work set out in Valuing People (Cm 5086, March 2001).

  I will now set out from your terms of reference what I like about the Bill and where it can be improved.

  The issues the Bill tackles have, of course, been discussed for a very long time. However, I believe the consultation process has fallen short of the ideal because a lot of people who could be affected by the Bill know nothing about it. Groups like Mencap and People First have done something to publicise the Draft Bill; but while I am a very involved part of these groups and I was aware that a Draft Bill was on its way, if I had been a member of say Joe Public I would have not possibly have picked this up. Learning Disability and other disabilities are still not news worthy or on the top of people's agenda. That is a pity when the Bill touches so closely on people's lives.

  Are the objectives of the Draft Bill clear and appropriate? Yes, but I believe it was a good move on the Government's part to set up a Joint Committee; and hopefully the Government will find it useful in its future thinking.

  What I like in the Bill, and where it can be improved: I believe the Government has drafted the Bill with good will, and tried to give it as much flexibility as possible. However, we hope for further listening to people with learning disabilities both in refining the Bill and in drawing up the Codes of Practice.

  The Bill and the Codes between them need to make sure that:

    —  The priority is people being allowed to make their own decisions.

    —  There is encouragement of listening to people who don't use words but can communicate by other means.

    —  People who need help in making or stating their decisions have the support of independent advocacy and circles of support.

    —  Supporters for people are those who know them well and are chosen by them—supporters they are comfortable with.

    —  Disabled people and others with decision-making problems are allowed time to make decisions with support, rather than being rushed into someone else's decisions.

    —  Where urgent decisions have to be made—for example there is a life-threatening condition to deal with—there is still hard listening to the person himself or herself and to those who know them well, including the doctor in medical cases.

  The Code could usefully take as an example of an important decision that is not urgent the decisions needed around a holiday for a severely disabled person. Another more significant example would be where someone lives (in cases where the person can not simply decide that for themselves).

  I welcome the safeguards in the Bill to protect vulnerable people from abuse of their affairs, but I think there need to be rights of appeal against assumptions being made that they are not able to make decisions, and against decisions made by others that seem to be abusive. The Bill as it stands does not encourage independent advocacy by individuals or by circles of support—in vetting decisions about competence, in vetting decision making by alternative decision makers, and in supporting appeals.

  We have lost in this draft the obligation of Social Services Departments to protect vulnerable people where their interests are being threatened.

  I hope these points will be useful to the Committee and to the Bill.

August 2003

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