Mental health law briefing 218 – Review of learning disability law
The Government have announced a review of whether the Mental Health Act should be changed in the way it applies to those with learning disability. On 6th March the government unveiled a Green Paper with a twelve week consultation period entitled “No Voice Unheard, No Right Ignored – a consultation for people with learning disabilities, autism and mental health conditions”.1
As a result of the 2007 amendments to the Mental Health Act, learning disability constitutes a mental disorder for the purposes of the Act if it gives rise to abnormally aggressive or seriously irresponsible conduct. The Government is to consider whether there should be changes to this including even whether learning disability and autism should be removed explicitly from the Act on the basis that they are not a mental illness (although that is of course not the way the Act currently defines its scope).
The review is likely to involve increased rights to challenge admissions and to be supported to live independently in the community. This might include a specific duty on health and social care commissioners to consider how community based care could be appropriately delivered.
Another proposal is that a named social worker should be responsible for ensuring that the care plan for a person with learning disabilities or autism is based on the “least restrictive, least institutional setting” possible. This should include reviewing the care plan if the individual is in hospital and making sure that the family feel involved in decisions about the individual. If the individual wanted someone else to undertake this role, then assuming they were sufficient skilled to do so, this would be permitted.
The Green Paper also makes proposals to extend personal budgets to those with learning disabilities and autism.
Given the forthcoming general election, implementation of any proposals will however, presumably be a matter for a new government.
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