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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 22nd January 2019.

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Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Labour, Stockton North 10:15 am, 22nd January 2019

That is most certainly the case. I go back to my Second Reading speech. This is about the individual. This is about one of the most serious things we can do as a nation to somebody—take away their liberty. We should do anything and everything we can do to ensure that they have every single piece of support before that decision is taken, effectively, to lock them up. I agree with my hon. Friend.

I was quoting Age UK, which believes that everybody should have access to an advocate and that a person who chooses not be represented can then opt out. The quote continues:

“This will greatly improve the Bill and give clarity to the cared for person and the responsible body.”

Mencap believes, as I do, that independent advocacy is vital to help vulnerable people to understand and exercise their rights under the law. We have had several examples of that this morning.

Rethink Mental Illness is also on board with the amendment. I appeal to the Minister to provide an opt-out approach, which would greatly improve this Bill, as others have said, and give clarity to service users and providers.

I mentioned care home managers, but the risk of independent hospitals being responsible for assessments is another concern about the Bill, and as we said the other day, we hope the Minister will ramp up the assurances in this area. I have another real-life example for her. A man was held in hospital for almost a year—with no advocate for 10 months. He was angry because he wanted to go back to his two-bedroom home, but the local authority wanted him to move into accommodation with 24-hour support and to not return home. The reason given was that the brother had moved into the spare room at the cared-for person’s home and there had to be a spare room for any overnight carer, should the man return home.

What did the advocate find out by talking to the cared-for person? They found that, when he had been living at home, he had been sleeping in a chair in the lounge while his brother had his room and his carer had the spare bed. Then he had fallen and not been found for two days, as a succession of carers had failed to attend. The cared-for person’s statements were not taken into account by the social worker involved. If they had been, the process might have been very different. The man needed an advocate from day one.