Frontline professionals who work with vulnerable adults are frequently unaware of the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) or lack the skills to put it into practice, according to the Law Society of England and Wales.
The Law Society, which is the independent professional body for solicitors, made this claim in a submission to the House of Lords Select Committee.
The MCA provides a legal framework for making decisions on behalf of adults who lack the capacity to take decisions for themselves.
More training on the application of the MCA
It requires a decision maker to consult widely, including anyone who cares for the person who lacks capacity, and to make decisions in the person’s best interests.
Nicola Mackintosh, from the Law Society’s Mental Health and Disability Committee, said that the problem lies with professional training for key frontline staff having not kept pace with the increasing complexity of community care.
“We would like to see more training on the legal framework and practical application of the MCA," she said.
“Safeguarding the dignity and wellbeing of people with impaired capacity should be a priority for government. Solicitors often handle the aftermath of poor implementation of the Act and it is essential that steps are taken to increase awareness so our most vulnerable citizens are not at risk.”
Overly complex DoLs regime
In its submission, the Society has also called for a review of Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLs); greater resources for the Official Solicitor and the Court of Protection and the Hague Convention on the International Protection of Adults to be ratified for England and Wales.
"The over-arching problem with the DoLs regime, as with the MCA generally, is that it is complex and is not always used when it should be," Mackintosh added. "There is effectively a postcode lottery for patients.
"The DoLs protections can only be used for those detained in hospitals and care homes. They need to be extended to also protect the increasing number of people placed in ‘supported living’, whose numbers may increase still further as a result of the Government’s response to the Winterbourne View scandal.
"Solicitors representing vulnerable clients see increasing demands on those with the responsibility of ensuring these clients exercise their legal rights under the Act, such as the Official Solicitor and the Court of Protection. The lack of resources means real problems with accessibility and delay for vulnerable adults."