There is a ‘depressing’ lack of awareness about the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) according to the Law Society of England and Wales.
In a submission to a House of Lords Select Committee, the Society said that front line professionals who work with vulnerable adults are frequently unaware of the Act or lack the skills to put it into practice.
Nicola Mackintosh from the Law Society’s Mental Health and Disability Committee said:
‘Unfortunately, professional training for key front line staff has not kept pace with the increasing complexity of community care. We would like to see more training on the legal framework and practical application of the MCA.’
‘Safeguarding the dignity and wellbeing of people with impaired capacity should be a priority for government. Solicitors often handle the aftermath of poor implementation of the Act and it is essential that steps are taken to increase awareness so our most vulnerable citizens are not at risk.’
The Law Society’s submission calls for a review of deprivation of liberty (DoLs) provisions; greater resources for the Official Solicitor and the Court of Protection and the Hague Convention on the International Protection of Adults to be ratified for England and Wales.
‘The over-arching problem with the DoLs regime, as with the MCA generally, is that it is complex and is not always used when it should be. There is effectively a postcode lottery for patients,’ added Mackintosh.
‘The DoLs protections can only be used for those detained in hospitals and care homes. They need to be extended to also protect the increasing number of people placed in ‘supported living’, whose numbers may increase still further as a result of the government’s response to the Winterbourne View scandal.
‘Solicitors representing vulnerable clients see increasing demands on those with the responsibility of ensuring these clients exercise their legal rights under the Act, such as the Official Solicitor and the Court of Protection. The lack of resources means real problems with accessibility and delay for vulnerable adults.’