Disabled campaigners say the government must delay a controversial bill they believe would make it easier to restrict the freedom of people in care settings who lack capacity to make their own decisions.
Peers yesterday (Wednesday) began debating the committee stage of the mental capacity (amendment) bill, legislation that will affect an estimated 300,000 people in England and Wales with impairments including dementia, learning difficulties and brain injuries.
The bill would introduce a new system, Liberty Protection Safeguards (LPS), to replace the crisis-ridden Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS), for service-users who need to be deprived of their liberty as part of their care but are considered to lack the mental capacity to consent to those arrangements.
The bill is based on recommendations made by the Law Commission but critics say it is “significantly different” from the commission’s own draft bill and omits most of its most progressive elements.
Inclusion London believes the bill as it stands breaches four articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (on equal recognition before the law, on liberty and security of the person, on protecting the integrity of the person, and on independent living) and says it is “seriously concerned about the impact this bill will have on the human rights of disabled people”.
It says the bill will “significantly weaken the few existing protections” disabled people currently have and has called for its progress through parliament to be paused to allow people who would be affected by the proposals to respond to the government’s plans.
But it will also be working with other disabled people’s organisations, lawyers and academics to secure amendments to the bill.
Among its concerns are that the legislation would give new powers to arrange deprivation of liberty assessments to care home managers.
An independent assessor would only be asked to carry out a review if the service-user was believed to be objecting to the deprivation of their liberty, and it would be up to the care home manager to decide if that person was objecting.
Inclusion London says it would also be up to that manager to decide if it was in the resident’s best interests to have an advocate to help them challenge the decision.
Similar powers would be given to managers in local authorities, hospitals or NHS clinical commissioning groups when considering LPS for disabled people in other care settings.
Svetlana Kotova, coordinator of Inclusion London’s Disability Justice Project, said: “The bill does not require them to consult with the person concerned, give any weight to their wishes and feelings or even to inform them or their relatives about the decisions that are being made.
“The bill restricts access to independent advocacy and does not improve in any way the person’s ability to challenge decisions that are made about them.”
Inclusion London is now seeking signatures for a letter it plans to send to parliament’s joint committee on human rights to express its concerns about the bill.
Disability Rights UK (DR UK) has also raised concerns about the bill.