On Whose Authority?
The law says families should be fully involved in care decisions for adults unable to speak for themselves. But what happens when wishes are ignored? Claire Bolderson reports.
The law says decisions about care for people who can not decide for themselves should be done collaboratively with the person’s best interests always at heart. So why do family members, feeling ignored and even intimidated, often find themselves in open conflict with councils and care providers?
In Scotland and Northern Ireland issues of who makes decisions about the best interests of a person who can’t make that decision themselves is covered by different laws. In practice, when the family or friends of a learning disabled person in Scotland don’t agree with how their loved-one is being cared for or treated, the law makes it easier for the dispute to go to court, with the parents or siblings more likely to be given guardianship. More than 2,700 families exercised this right in 2018-19.
Northern Ireland is waiting for its own legislation to come into force, who makes decisions for learning disabled adults is governed by common law and is a more informal process.
Campaigners say poor training, lack of understanding of the law and shrinking budgets mean too often the legitimate concerns about care for people with learning disabilities, autism or mental health problems are being ignored. Claire Bolderson investigates.
Producer: Rob Cave
Editor: Gail Champion
Photo credit: Katarzyna Bialasiewicz