Laughing my socks off

Would you expect to go to a conference on the Mental Capacity and Mental Health Acts and have a rip roaring time? Silly question. It’s always lovely to be surprised in life although I would have enjoyed the subject matter either way: On Friday I went to the 2015 Annual Taking Stock conference at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester where we heard fascinating updates on areas such as the Care Act and Advocacy, the Law Commission’s proposals for informal incapacitated admissions, and issues with the revised Mental Health Act Code of Practice. As usual I will bullet point what I regarded as the most pertinent insights:

Neil Allen of the wonderful 39 Essex Chambers (for all things mental capacity and Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards, subscribe to their newsletter) asked ‘Informal Incapacitated Admissions, a Bygone Era?’ and answered his own question by stating ‘Yes!’ and walking off stage. it transpires that the Law Commission are attempting to integrate the situation with DoLS into Mental Health Act practice (a quarter of a million people in the UK are currently deprived of their liberty according to Neil). Neil’s view was that the proposals as they currently stand will introduce a kind of Business class service for people who are objecting to their detention (as they would be entitled to better safeguards) and Economy for those who do not object. Surely then this would lead to a ridiculous situation where people would object in order to receive a higher standard of professional attention, which could also impact on entitlement to free 117 aftercare. He urged us to email the Law Commission with our concerns.

We also heard from Mathieu Culverhouse from Irwin Mitchell solicitors who has high hopes for the Care Act and in particular its promotion of advocacy. Peter Edwards, a Human Rights lawyer, asked the first burning question during the Q&A, and here excuse my French, as he said ‘Can you not admit, Mathieu, that the Care Act is a load of bollocks?’ The kind of straight talking no nonsense challenge one ought to expect from a man as successful as he. Mathieu proved more optimistic than Peter, unlike the dozens of local authority employees I was surrounded by in the auditorium.

I have never had the pleasure of witnessing Professor Alistair Burns speak and although there was little he could tell me about dementia that I did not already know I did enjoy his joke about dementia dogs – “Guide dogs for the blind looking for a career change’ – and his assertion that they would one day be able to remember PIN numbers.

Finally we heard from Professor Jenny Shaw on mental health and social care in prisons, not an area I have any experience of (and my parents are very grateful for that!). The Care Act may have a role to play in improving conditions for the incarcerated and she outlined how that might work.

Joking aside it was a fantastic day for those of us who are potty about these issues and the laws which govern supporting people affected by mental health and/or dementia. If you would like further information on the talks please email me: swilcox@pathwaysthroughdementia.org