Schedule to be inserted as Schedule AA1 to the Mental Capacity Act 2005

Part of Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 15th January 2019.

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Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Labour, Stockton North 10:15 am, 15th January 2019

My hon. Friend spells it out very clearly. I get very anxious when I see parents shut out. People come to see me when children are being taken into care—though I know that that is not necessarily directly applicable to this Bill. They are often in tears or do not understand the system; they are not being properly consulted. Anything that we can do in the Bill to give protection in this specific area is very important, so I welcome what my hon. Friend just said.

Mencap confirmed in its briefing that:

“We believe that there are some situations in which the LPS system will not be the appropriate framework to authorise interventions. For example, where young people’s care arrangements include physical restraint, we believe more scrutiny would be required and should therefore be undertaken by the courts.”

Those are the protections and safeguards that we need to consider while providing care to under-18s. My local authority of Stockton-on-Tees has raised its own concerns that including 16 and 17-year-olds in the legislation is likely to contribute to increased workforce pressure in any given local authority. One area that it has particularly flagged is the possible impact on foster carers. Would this lead to a reluctance among foster carers to come forward? Has the Minister considered what happens for other people who care for children who are not with their families? The measures proposed in our amendments go a long way to providing the protections needed. They are the very least of what we should be doing to protect vulnerable young people.

Although I have spoken mainly about 16 and 17-year-olds being included in the Bill, their access to an AMCP and the development of other protections, I support the notion that access to a genuinely independent AMCP should be standard—not the exception—for every person. I do not think that the Government amendments go far enough. Why would that not be standard? Are there financial reasons? My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham North has already started the conversation about that. Is it a case of expense or resource? Will the Government make sure that we have not only the resources in the system to deal with this, but the training and even the career development for people to move into this area?

AMCP work is not inexpensive and there is no doubt that anything in the Bill that involves local authorities, commissioning groups or health boards and their teams is bound to have a considerable financial impact on them. If it were left to me and other Opposition Members then local authorities, commissioners and health boards would have even greater responsibilities on them, and therefore even greater increased cost. We must not lose sight of that. I am sure that there will be other opportunities to talk about resources and what already works, but for now I would welcome hearing from the Minister not just about the protections that she sees as necessary to the Bill, particularly for young people, but how she will ensure that the various bodies involved in delivering them will have the financial and staff capacity to deal with the work they need to do.