At the beginning of 2019, I was contacted by a large number of local people with regards to the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill, which looks to introduce legislation to replace the current system known as 'Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards' (DoLS). Primarily these concerns focussed on the Bill becoming law without being amended, and what this could mean for people's wishes about their care.
DoLS is an assessment currently carried out on people who lack the mental capacity to make their own decisions about their care, for example because they are living with dementia. However, the Government believes the current system is broken and is ultimately failing to provide vulnerable people with the protections they need. More than 48,000 people have been waiting more than a year for an assessment, and this is something that needs to be addressed urgently.
That is why the Government has brought forward a new system, known as 'Liberty Protection Safeguards', which will become law through the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill. These reforms will introduce a simpler, streamlined process that is essential to tackling the backlog of vulnerable people waiting for an assessment, but, crucially, robustly upholds the rights of the individual at all stages. Giving more power to the individual, the new safeguards ensure their thoughts and feelings are taken into account throughout.
For people with long-term progressive conditions, starting the process from scratch every year can be cumbersome and unnecessary. The Liberty Protection Safeguards model triples the maximum authorisation length from one year to three years, as recommended by the Law Commission. This will only be granted to people who have already received two prior assessments and authorisations, and whose circumstances are unlikely to change. Every authorisation will also be supported by a programme of reviews which can take place regularly within an authorisation period to ensure that the care arrangements in place remain appropriate for the individual.
The Bill is currently making its way through Parliament. Far from being rushed, the Bill builds on the Law Commission's three years of engagement with vulnerable people, carers, local government and providers. It has recently gone back to the House of Lords for consideration from the House of Commons.
You can follow the Bill's progress through Parliament here.