Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill [HL] - Commons Amendments

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:45 pm on 26th February 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 4:45 pm, 26th February 2019

My Lords, It is vital that those who are deprived of their liberty are provided with the information necessary for them to be able to exercise their rights. Although there is a duty to provide information in Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, noble Lords have rightly flagged that the Bill should be explicit about this duty, and amended the Bill to this effect.

The Government listened to noble Lords and agreed that the Bill should be explicit on this matter. However, the amendment tabled in this place was not clear about when information should be provided; we felt that this drafting could cause some confusion for practitioners, so we tabled alternative amendments. Amendment 24 clarifies that, as soon as practicable after arrangements are proposed, the responsible body must take such steps as are practicable to ensure that the person understands the key steps and safeguards in the authorisation process. This is particularly important to ensure that people are aware of their options to challenge the authorisation. Importantly, there is also a duty to provide the same information to any appropriate person who is providing representation and support to the person. This is important in ensuring that family members and those close to the person are also provided with the necessary information to enable them to effectively provide representation and support to the person.

The duty on the responsible body is to take steps as soon as practicable to provide the person with the information. This means that this should be done as soon as possible after the responsible body is aware that arrangements are proposed. The responsible body will need to identify an appropriate person or appoint an IMCA at the earliest possible stage to provide support and representation for the person; the same principle applies for the duty to provide information. Information should be provided in the early stages of the process so that the person can make an informed decision regarding the support they receive through the process, and is able to exercise their rights. The code will provide details about how this will work in practice. We have already established a working group on the code of practice, which includes stakeholders from across the sector, ensuring that information is provided at the earliest possible point to form a part of these discussions.

Amendment 24 also introduces a general duty to publish information about the authorisation, including: the process; the circumstances in which an IMCA should be appointed; the role of the appropriate person; and the right to challenge an authorisation in court. This ensures that anyone who has an interest in the welfare of the person is subject to liberty protection safeguards authorisation, has access to the important information about a person’s rights, and is able to raise objections on behalf of the person.

Amendment 25 requires that the responsible body remind the cared-for person and any appropriate person of this information after the authorisation is granted. The information that needs to be provided to the person, and to any appropriate persons, includes details of the authorisation process, access to representation and support from an appropriate person or an IMCA, the right to request a review, and circumstances in which an AMCP will consider a case, which includes objections and the right to challenge authorisations in court.

On the matter of challenging authorisations in court, the responsible body under Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights has a duty to ensure that relevant cases are referred to the Court of Protection. I know that there has been a particular concern about ensuring that in very rare cases where it is not in the person’s best interests to receive support and representation, those people are enabled to challenge in the Court of Protection if they want to. In these cases, the responsible body will need to ensure that the cases are referred to the court. If it fails in this duty, it can be challenged in court.

I understand that Amendment 25A, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Watkins, seeks to require responsible bodies to keep a record of the decision and justification for not immediately giving a copy of the authorisation record, and if an authorisation record is not given within 72 hours, there must be a review into whether the lack of information is appropriate. I understand her desire to ensure that information about an authorisation record is provided promptly. However, we think that the drafting of the amendment would cause some issues; for example, it is not clear who is responsible for the duty to record or carry out a review. I am certainly willing to reflect on how best we can ensure that information is shared promptly, but I hope that I can reassure the noble Baroness that we will generally expect the information to be provided earlier than this, and we will set out reasonable timescales for the responsible body in the statutory code of practice. I hope that, with this reassurance, she will decide not to press her amendment.

The House has made clear its view that the Bill should be explicit about the duty to provide information. The Government have listened: these amendments outline clearly the duty to provide information at the earliest possible stage; to require, as far as possible, that the person understands the information they are being given; and to take action on it if necessary. I hope that noble Lords will accept these changes made by the House of Commons, and on that basis, I beg to move.