I remember turning 10, it was significant and I felt grown up and perhaps a little bit more noticed (well for a day or so anyway). Friends and family kept telling me I was now in ‘double figures’ and they kept asking me what I wanted to do when I grow up. They also told me what they thought my achievements were so far (which was mainly being tall for my age, so thanks biology !) I just shrugged, made some helicopter noises and pretended I was Airwolf ! However what they said stuck in my head and I knew in my own 10 year old way it was nearly time to indeed take the next step which at that point was exciting but still very unknown.
The Mental Capacity Act has met it’s own 10 year milestone, its had to grow up a lot quicker than I did given its immense responsibility and impact and having a few days in the spotlight feels very much needed. Like all new law it has taken some time to become embedded into every day life and as a person practicing at its birth I would suggest it took far to long to become what it is now. Indeed some professionals and some sectors have still failed to follow this law or embrace it and although invited to the birthday party will probably fail to turn up! That said at 10 the visibility of the MCA is there for more of us than ever before with its unique ability to uphold human rights together with its principles which I’ve blogged about before so won’t repeat here. However do check out the excellent A to Z of the Act which is on twitter right now. The A to Z demonstrates why this law really does do its job well but also reminds us it requires us to do our own part properly or what’s the point ?
For me what the MCA does well on the ground is enable better conversations, to find out what citizens understand and what decisions they want to make about their own life, what they can weigh up and why something fundamentally matters to them. I also like how the MCA enables people to tell people like me to sod off !
However where people can’t do those things because they lack capacity is where this particular 10 year old plays a very decent trump card. As professionals we can’t just bulldoze in and do what we like by telling ourselves we are acting in ‘best interests’ or justifying through a ‘duty of care’ (even though those things matter) because this card demands least restrictive approaches are not an afterthought but a given justification to respond. It provides best interest decision makers a permission to think and evidence actions which makes you absolutely accountable to the individual citizen and not the state or anyone else. The 10 year old MCA is confident too, it does not allow for sweeping generalisations as the decision specific notion is what counts here and for professionals it makes life a bit more tricky because the MCA answers back in the ‘life’ classroom – hoorah !!!………For my profession it doesn’t get any better than this and although always representing our employers and our procedures we are also bound by this law to ensure absolute personal responsibility to citizens and ongoing proportionate outcomes related to understanding and respecting wishes and choices (even the ones we might think are bad ones !)
The thing is though the MCA isn’t legislation for social workers to act on alone, it doesn’t solely exist for us and our practice and social workers haven’t got an exclusive invitation to the birthday party. The MCA exists for all people and for our entire society. I really believe government and parliament were at their very best enshrining this law for citizens and for our own ability for self determination. The MCA must therefore be applied where it’s needed across all professional groups and environments. I hope everyone continues not to just be educated about it but to see the underlining principles of why this right based law matters so much and the impact it continues to have and could have.
When we grow up things change, we learn from our experiences and we listen to those who influence our lives. As the MCA gets older it’s time to review the law commission reports, listen to citizens and families and listen to professionals and academics experiences of it. We must all help this act mature and remain relevant and focussed into its own adolescence. It’s also time to look at what hinders progress for example why is DoLS struggling with community based applications and how are the MCA’s own parents doing (being the brilliant Court of Protection of course!)
I’m feeling very positive, the MCA deserves it’s birthday party and my present to it is an Airwolf DVD box set……..I can make unwise decisions you know !