To celebrate 10 years of the MCA we have compiled an A to Z of MCA and DoLS. We did this for fun (Yes fun) but also to remind people of just how important and powerful this piece of legislation is. It basically boils down to being passionate about human rights. If you’re passionate about human rights then you will love MCA. If you get the chance to read some of the case law attached to the list, I would highly recommend taking time to read some of them. They all contain important lessons that will inform your practice no matter what your role is.
Why is the Mental Capacity Act good, I hear you ask. Well, because ultimately it fits really well with a rights-based approach and it gives control and autonomy to the people we serve. When it isn’t possible for people to make a decision that needs to be made, the Act instructs us to act in a way that infringes on their rights as little as possible. For me those words are a breath of fresh air when you consider some of the awful decisions that have been made for people in the past under the banner of risk or safeguarding or duty of care or [insert dodgy reason here]. The Act completely turns the tables on who holds the power and I for one feel a lot more comfortable helping people reach their own decisions rather than making decisions for people.
Unfortunately it has not always been a bed of roses and the unfortunate thing about this legislation is that it was never given the proper roll out it needed for the scale of the culture change that it required. I could never see how an hours e-learning can change a habit of a lifetime. As a colleague pointed out to me, we are ten years in to the MCA and local authorities are still chairing local implementation network meetings. I also often find that people directly responsible for caring for people don’t know the Act well enough to support people to make decisions for themselves whether they agree with the decision or not. I also think everyone associated with social care will have a story about how the Act has been misused or not understood at one point or another. I hear stories all the time where a health care or social care worker has misused the Act in order to achieve the result that suited the worker over the person. These stories are heartbreaking and tragic but hopefully in time we’ll only get to hear of the good stories about upholding people’s rights or how a person was supported to do something they really wanted despite there being an associated risk.
Anyway the future seems bright for the MCA, there is a Law Commission report on the replacement of MCA & DoLS (The Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards) and it seems clear that there is an increasing weight being attached to people’s wishes and feelings whenever cases go to the Court of Protection. The direction we are heading for is hopefully a culture where people’s rights and happiness are the first thing we think about when supporting people and not a box we have to tick in order to complete a piece of paperwork.
For all the reasons above, we need to shout about the MCA. It has empowered people and will continue to do so until MCA mark 2 takes the mantle onwards and upwards.