Peers urge radical changes to mental capacity safeguards for vulnerable people

Peers have backed reform of safeguards for vulnerable people detained in care homes or hospitals without the mental capacity to consent to the arrangements.

But despite giving the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill an unopposed second reading, they criticised some of its provisions and called for “radical” changes during later stages.

Health and Social Care minister Lord O’Shaughnessy (pictured) branded the current deprivation of liberty safeguards scheme “costly and cumbersome”.

He said the scheme aimed to ensure any deprivation of liberty for people who lacked capacity was in their best interests.

“It is a step never taken lightly and always with the intent to prevent harm to the individual.”

But the current system was “overly technical and legalistic, placing significant burdens on people and their families”, while too often failing to achieve “positive outcomes”.

Lord O’Shaughnessy told the Lords: “People’s voices and those who care for them are not being heard. This needs to change.”

He said the Bill would reform the system so it was “less burdensome on people, carers, families and local authorities”, saving over £200 million a year.

“It will introduce a simpler process with increased engagement with families and their carers and afford swifter access to justice,” he said.

But Labour former minister Lord Touhig said the Bill did not offer a statutory definition of what constituted deprivation of liberty.

Lord Touhig, vice president of the National Autistic Society, said there were many concerns and the Bill did not adequately secure the rights of autistic people.

“Under the current safeguards system a deprivation of liberty needs to be in an individual’s best interests for it to be authorised. This Bill moves away from best interests – why?” he demanded.

“Let’s be wary of enacting legislation that pays scant regard to the individual, and in particular an individual, who in the context of this Bill, is among the most vulnerable in society,” Lord Touhig added.

Liberal Democrat Baroness Barker said she did not doubt the Government’s good intentions but in several areas the Bill was “deficient” and required “radical change”.

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