The Wishes of People with Learning Disabilities and Mental Health Problems Can't be Ignored

6 March 2015

A joint statement by the Mental Health Foundation and the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities on government proposals to “strengthen the rights of people with learning disabilities, autism and mental health conditions to make sure they get the best care”.

Today, the Minister of State for Care and Support, Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP, announced the publication of a government consultation entitled ‘No voice unheard, no right ignored'. The consultation sets out a range of measures to enable “people to live independently in their community and to make choices about their own lives.” 
 
In a joint statement, Toby Williamson, the Mental Health Foundation's lead on mental capacity issues, and Molly Mattingly, Molly Mattingly, Head of Learning Disability Programmes for the Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities said:
 
“The law as its stands protects and promotes the rights of people with learning disabilities, mental health problems and dementia to make decisions over their care and treatment. The key question is why these existing legal rights are not being enforced. Whilst the direction of travel is welcomed, as are the good intentions, this consultation must not detract from the job at hand, which is to promote and enforce existing law. We have the tools to do the job, what is needed are the resources to ensure that they are effectively used. There is no excuse under the law as it stands for those providing care and treatment to ignore the wishes of people with learning disabilities, mental health problems and dementia, and the views of their families. 
 
“Over the last thirty years enormous steps forward have been taken to enable people with learning disabilities, mental health problems and dementia to lead much more fulfilling lives in the community - as citizens with the same rights as anyone else, rather than being hidden away in closed, oppressive institutions. This has been achieved through the demands of people who actually use services and their families, as well as the actions of enlightened policy makers, organisations, and practitioners.
 
“In parallel with this, legislation such as the Mental Capacity Act has been introduced which supports the rights of people to make decisions for themselves about their lives, including care and treatment they may receive, and to be protected if decisions have to be made on their behalf (as well as acknowledging the important role that many families play in the care of people with disabilities). The Mental Health Foundation and the Foundation for People with learning Disabilities support these developments but recognise there is an ongoing challenge to ensure that everyone, irrespective of the severity of their disability, is afforded the same protection under law. Work still needs to be done to ensure all services providing care and treatment uphold and enforce these existing rights.”