New law aims to protect vulnerable people in care

A new law aims to protect the rights of those who lack the mental capacity to make decisions about their care and to reduce the burden on local authorities.

Introduced to the House of Lords today, the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill seeks to replace the current system known as ‘Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards’ (DoLs).

This is an assessment currently carried out on people who do not have the mental capacity to make their own decisions about their care. Last year, it was scrutinised by the Law Commission review for being too complex and bureaucratic.

A new system known as ‘Liberty Protection Safeguards’ has now been developed by the government, with the aim that these will become law through the bill.

As set out in the official press release, the reforms seek to:

  • introduce a simpler process that involves families more and gives swifter access to assessments
  • be less burdensome on people, carers, families and local authorities
  • allow the NHS, rather than local authorities, to make decisions about their patients, allowing a more efficient and clearly accountable process
  • consider restrictions of people’s liberties as part of their overall care package
  • get rid of repeat assessments and authorisations when someone moves between a care home, hospital and ambulance as part of their treatment

Minister for Care Caroline Dinenage said:

“Treating people with respect and dignity, no matter their disability or condition, is the touchstone of a civilised society. I want to ensure that the system works for everyone and ensures that individuals’ fundamental rights are protected while reassuring families their loved ones are getting good care

“We know local authorities are under pressure which is why these reforms are so important: to reduce the burden on councils so they can focus their resources where they are needed on the frontline.”

Law Commissioner Nicholas Paines QC said:

“In our report we were clear that the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards needed to be replaced as a matter of pressing urgency.

“This new legislation, based broadly on our recommendations, will go a long way towards addressing the flaws of the current system and better protect the most vulnerable in our society.”

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