Government renames capacity bill and ditches ‘general authority’ idea

The government has listened to concerns over the draft bill to
protect and empower vulnerable adults and renamed it the Mental
Capacity Bill.

Its decision follows a recommendation by a joint-parliamentary
committee last November that the Mental Incapacity Bill should be
retitled because it had negative connotations and that a test for
mental capacity, not incapacity, was central to the bill (news,
page 16, 6 November).

The new draft bill provides a statutory framework to protect
vulnerable people, carers and professionals and makes clear who can
take decisions in which situations and how they should go about

The government has also addressed the concerns of disability
campaigners over the lack of clarity about the “general authority”
measures in the initial bill. This would have allowed everyday and
emergency decisions to be made on behalf of a person unable to make
their own decisions.

“General authority” will now be renamed and redrafted to
demonstrate that it does not give anyone blanket authority to
intervene in the life of someone who lacks capacity. It will
instead protect carers from liability but only when they act in the
best interests of a person who cannot consent to being cared

The Department for Constitutional Affairs said it would provide
parliament with draft codes of practice to accompany the bill at
committee stage to show how the government expects the new law to
work in practice.

The government also confirmed that further work would be undertaken
in the area of advocacy. Last week, a coalition of 30 charities
warned that the bill would be “toothless” unless it ensured there
were enough advocates to guard the rights of those who needed
support to make decisions.

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