Vulnerable to lose liberty for longer in care homes under DoLS replacement

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The Alzheimer’s Society, the National Autistic Society, mental health charity MIND and the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG) are among organisations expressing concerns about the proposed Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill, which has brought in a “conflict of interest” for care home managers.

The Bill would triple the time people with dementia and mental illness can be deprived of their liberty without a review, from one year to three years. This is because, while an individual’s first and second review would take place after one year, a third review is proposed to not take place until three years later.

Also, care home managers would gain more powers to arrange assessments and decide whether residents can access advocacy, which previously had been the role of local authorities.

Alzheimer’s Society Chief Executive Jeremy Hughes explained: “Half of the people currently cared for under the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) in England have dementia, so it is alarming to think that these proposed changes could put their wellbeing in jeopardy.

“Under the new proposals, people with dementia find themselves in a worrying situation, unable to comment on the quality of the care they receive, because care home managers would be in charge of asking residents about their care.

“This not only presents a risk to people with dementia, but also creates a potential conflict of interest for already stretched care home managers.”

The charities are saying that the Bill would replace existing DoLS with an “entirely unfit new system of protection” that would not “guarantee that all patients have access to independent, impartial advocates”. They believe there has to be an independent person carrying out assessments to ensure the liberty and rights of people with a range of care needs.

Care homeowners have also voiced concerns about the Bill. Care England Chief Executive Martin Green said: “The protection of people in care services is our top priority, but there is a need to ensure that their freedoms and rights are also protected. This Bill is not supported by either users’ groups, or care providers, and I urge the Government to consult on a workable alternative.”

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said it has listened carefully to feedback from stakeholders and parliamentarians and made amendments, “including excluding care home managers from granting authorisations or completing assessments”. A spokesperson said: “This will ensure all applications are independently scrutinised.”

Peers’ criticisms of the Bill in the House of Lords have so far led to 307 amendments being tabled. The Bill has been at committee stage, which should be completed by 24 January, after which it will have its third reading.

Last reviewed 30 January 2019

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