Minister rejects attempt to insert advocacy role in Mental Capacity Bill

Health minister Rosie Winterton has rejected amendments to the
Mental Capacity Bill that would have seen independent consultees
replaced by advocates, promising critics the existing proposal
would be an “advocacy plus” role, writes
Sally Gillen.

Under the draft bill, unbefriended people who lack capacity will
have an independent consultee to advise them on decisions such as
medical treatment and accommodation.

But campaigners, including learning difficulty and disability
groups, believe the role should be advocate focused, which would
guarantee the wishes of the individual were better represented.

But Winterton told MPs at a debate on the bill last week that
the independent consultee would be a statutory role, given a strong
voice and underpinned by national training and £6.5 million
funding for England and £0.4 million for Wales.

She added that people who made decisions about a person lacking
capacity who did not correspond with advice given by an independent
consultee would be expected to explain why.

“We have always seen the role of the independent consultee
as being “on the side” of P [person without capacity].
That is the whole idea,” said Winterton.

But Liberal Democrat spokesperson for older people Paul Burstow
said he was unconvinced about the role, warning that it could
become known as “advocacy-lite”.

“There may well be a role for a consultee, perhaps like
that of the guardian ad litem in the child protection system, but
it is a separate and distinct role from that of the
advocate,” he said.

“I am not yet convinced by what the minister says. There
is a tension in conflating an advocacy role – being the
person on P’s side, his friend – with a role on which
one has to step back and give advice in a detached way to the
decision maker…I genuinely do not see how those two roles can
sit together comfortable and effectively,” added Burstow.


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