Mental capacity service extended

Independent advocates will be given more time when dealing with vulnerable people who lack the capacity to make decisions.

The Department of Health has decided, after consultation, to double the average time for the Independent Mental Capacity Advocate service to eight hours a case from an original
proposal of four hours.

But, in the short term, it ruled out extending the service beyond those who have no family or friends to advocate on their behalf.

The service, which starts next April, will help people who lack capacity to make decisions about medical treatment or changes of residence.

In its response to the consultation, the department said it would evaluate the service after the first year to decide whether it had met the needs of the “unbefriended” before considering
an extension.

Services will be commissioned jointly by local authorities and primary care trusts, with social services holding financial responsibility. Commissioners will have the power to extend services to other groups and situations on a discretionary basis.

Although advocates will be expected to use existing complaints mechanisms to resolve most cases locally, they may as a last resort refer a case to the Court of Protection.

The Making Decisions Alliance, a coalition of 40 charities, welcomed the new statutory service but was disappointed that it had not been extended to people with friends and family.


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