Decision-making guidance for people with learning difficulties ‘inaccessible’

A national charity run for and by people with
learning difficulties has criticised draft guidance published by
the Lord Chancellor’s Department for placing more power in the
hands of carers and professionals.

guidance issued by the Lord Chancellor on helping people who have
difficulty making decisions for themselves is aimed at relatives
and carers, health care professionals, social care professionals,
legal professionals, people with learning difficulties, and people
wishing to plan for future incapacity.

six leaflets are a stopgap arrangement until the government’s
proposals for law reform set out in October 1999 in Making
can be introduced.

Michelle Chinery, campaign
officer for People First and co-chairperson of the national
learning disability task force set up by the government, said:
“People with learning difficulties are bossed around and told they
are not capable. Yet these people inflicting the emotional abuse
might now be given the power to decide if a person with learning
difficulties can take a decision or not.

“Instead, we should be supporting
procedures that help people make their own decisions, and
encouraging self-advocacy. Even non-verbal people can take
decisions with the right support.”

First has criticised the failure to date by the Lord Chancellor’s
Department to publish the leaflets in a form that is accessible to
people with learning difficulties, or to put the information on
audio-tapes. “It is those people who can’t read who are probably
most likely to get their powers taken away,” Chinery

Lord Chancellor’s Department blamed lack of time and money, but has
promised to publish a later draft of the leaflet for people with
learning difficulties in an accessible form and to conduct a second
“mini consultation”.

However, Mencap, which represents
people with learning difficulties and their parents and carers,
strongly supports the proposed legislation.

don’t think it will take their rights away,” a spokesperson for
Mencap said. “But there will be people with dementia or with
profound learning difficulties who cannot make their own decisions.
So there needs to be a legal framework in place for people making
substitute decisions.”

– The
consultation period ends 9 July. The six leaflets are available at

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