Yesterday, I was invited to speak at the Court of Protection annual conference. I planned to just deliver the Get Steven Home story, with an emphasis on the three court hearings. The theme of the conference was “Reform”. There were some wonderful speakers. Some brilliant minds with formidable hearts.
So why did I feel so flat?
The first reason was obvious to me. One of the speakers was from the Office of the Public Guardian and I found myself feeling irritated as she spoke about the role of the OPG. I know I’m very sensitive to these issues but it sounded to me like a fair bit of ” othering” going on. The overall message that I heard was that families were the bad guys when it comes to financial abuse of incapacitated people. Professionals act with integrity – families are the villains. On the spur of the moment, I decided to change my speech and finished by talking about our ongoing relationship with the Court. I mentioned that I’ve recently done some calculations. I am meant to manage Steven’s finances and every penny I spend has to be in his best interests. That’s fine, even though I find it stressful not knowing how buying Steven a new CD will be interpreted. But here’s the rub. Even if I never spend another penny of Steven’s money, by a combination of the OPG fees and care charges, in seven years all of his money will be gone. Add into that the fact that LAs are charging people £85 a day to attend a day centre and private companies are charging £3500 per week for being in an ATU, I think financial abuse is just as likely from the State as from the family.
That only explains half of my flatness. The other half is trickier. It’s that awful sinking feeling I get when I experience how huge the industry is that’s built up around DoLs. I listen to some fabulous discussions about DoLs but I can’t place Steven’s life anywhere in the narrative. DoLs have become about lots of things but have become less about P. So, I get confused because I hear some wonderfully committed people debating the DoLs scheme but it feels alien to the life we inhabit. Legal professionals, social care peeps, academics, even philosophers wrestle with the Safeguards and for their good intentions, the industry expands.
Here is the thought that kept me awake most of last night. Would it be such a bad idea if the whole DoLs scheme was scrapped and we forget the idea of introducing a replacement scheme? Despite concordats, task forces, vanguards and Bubb breakfasts, the number of people coming out of ATUs has hardly moved an inch. Have DoLs helped the 3000+ people languishing in ATUs? Whether we apply an acid test or the Clapham omnibus test, people still get admitted to ATUs as frequently as the pre Cheshire West days.
One thing I’m prepared to bet is that, regardless of whether the 3000+ people are under a DoL, it is more than likely their Article 8 (and Article 5) Human Rights are being breached. But the HRA seldom comes into the equation. I don’t understand that. We have an existing law that could sufficiently serve detained people but we’d rather give endless energy deliberating what exactly is a deprivation of liberty.
If I could wave a magic wand, #LBBill would become law tomorrow. That would promote the person’s autonomy and make unlawful incarcerations so much more difficult. And for the people who slip through the #LBBill net, or for those people already detained, throw away your DoL schedules and view their detention through an Article 8 lens. I’m pretty sure that if we shifted the framing, people would receive justice quicker and more fairly.
Until of course, the Article 8 industry builds up.
From → Social Care