Joint Committee on the Draft Mental Incapacity Bill Minutes of Evidence

41.Supplementary memorandum from Mr Simon Cramp (MIB 1214)

  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak at the oral evidence session of the Joint Committee on Tuesday, 21 October. I hope the Committee found my evidence useful. You asked me to provide written answers to appropriate questions which we did not have the opportunity to talk about in the session and to say more, where I could, on anything the Committee asked me about. I would like to comment further on the General Authority to Act, the Court of Protection, the need for independent advocacy and how to make the final Bill more accessible.


  The General Authority as it is currently set out would allow almost anyone to do almost anything. I think the scope of this power and the types of decisions which should be made under it needs to be tightened.

  People with a learning disability are very fearful of the wording "reasonably believes" and it should be changed. It needs to be clear in the Bill that if someone wants to make decisions on someone else's behalf, they would have to go through a number of tests to ensure that the person could not make the decision themselves.

  A distinction should also be drawn between paid and unpaid carers. It would be a safer power if paid staff had to work to a person-centred plan and keep records so that they were accountable for the decisions they made. I recognise this is not practical for family members to do on a day-to-day basis but they should have to ask for formal powers if they wanted to take big decisions such where a person should live when they leave home.

  I do not think we should rule out the whole Bill on the basis that the General Authority part needs changing. The system we have at the moment is not acceptable to people with a learning disability and should be changed.


  I don't think the draft Bill makes sufficient provision for the resolution of conflicts between carers and people who have difficulty making or communicating a decision.

  It needs to be made clearer in the final Bill that people should be allowed to make their own decisions. Putting the principles at the start of the Bill would help.

  But people who have difficulties making decisions also need to be able to access support from independent advocates when making big decisions. An independent advocate should be there to ensure the voice of the person with a learning disability is heard rather than as an alternative decision-maker. Wherever possible, this advocate should be of the person's choosing. Independent advocacy services should follow a national code of practice.

  I would ask the Committee to please mention the need for advocacy in their report as people with a learning disability really do need it on the face of the Bill as a safeguard against having decisions made for them by someone else.


  The Court of Protection needs to be accessible for people with a learning disability to challenge decisions made on their behalf. One way of making it more accessible would be to have a panel sitting at a regional level—perhaps made up of a mix of professions such as a lawyer, a parent and a social worker—which conducts its proceedings in a way that a person with a learning disability can understand so that going to Court is not so scary. The people from the Court will need to be trained properly on how to deal with people with a learning disability.


  People with a learning disability have not been well informed about the draft Bill and that is one of the reasons why they are so angry about it. It was really good to have an accessible version of the draft Bill but it wasn't as accessible as it should have been and didn't tell the whole story. We will need a proper accessible version of the final Bill and accessible documents, like the code of practice, when implementing the Bill. I think the Government should ask people with a learning disability to help write these. A steering group could be set up to advise the Government.

  The Government will also need to work with organisations like Mencap and others to consult and inform their members.

  Thank you again for asking me to give evidence and I hope I have been able to provide some insight into how people with a learning disability feel about the draft Bill and what we would like changed. If I can be of any further assistance or you would like me to clarify any of the issues I've talked about, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Simon Cramp

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