Advocates’ role put into capacity bill

    The government has bowed to pressure to introduce advocates to the
    Mental Capacity Bill following campaigning by the Making Decisions
    Alliance.

    Department for Constitutional Affairs minister Cathy Ashton tabled
    amendments in the House of Lords this week to replace the
    independent consultee role with an advocate.

    Under a new clause, advocates must take more account of an
    individual’s wishes rather than act as an adviser to the decision
    maker.

    Zoe Ward, policy and campaigns officer at social care charity
    Turning Point, said: “It is much, much clearer that the advocate is
    supporting an individual.”

    But she added the alliance still wanted to see advocates available
    for a wider range of people. Under the bill, only those deemed
    unbefriended – those without friends or family – are entitled to an
    advocate.

    The alliance, which is made up of charities including Action on
    Elder Abuse, Mind and the Foundation for People With Learning
    Disabilities, has also welcomed an amendment that allows people who
    lose capacity to state beforehand what treatment they would like to
    receive.

    Originally, advance statements would only have allowed people to
    state which treatments they did not want if they lost
    capacity.

    Toby Williamson, head of policy at the Mental Health Foundation,
    said: “With these amendments the bill will make a dramatic change
    for the better in the lives of millions of people currently
    overlooked.”

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