39.Memorandum from Mr Simon Cramp (MIB
My Name is Simon Cramp, and I am a person with
a mild Learning Disability. I am a trustee of two major charitiesRoyal
Mencap Society, and a Housing Association called New Dimensions
Group which through its operating companies provides housing to
people with Learning Disabilities. I am also a Freelance Consultant
working in the field of Advocacy and promoting people's rights.
I am also involved in a lot of the work set out in Valuing People
(Cm 5086, March 2001).
I will now set out from your terms of reference
what I like about the Bill and where it can be improved.
The issues the Bill tackles have, of course,
been discussed for a very long time. However, I believe the consultation
process has fallen short of the ideal because a lot of people
who could be affected by the Bill know nothing about it. Groups
like Mencap and People First have done something to publicise
the Draft Bill; but while I am a very involved part of these groups
and I was aware that a Draft Bill was on its way, if I had been
a member of say Joe Public I would have not possibly have picked
this up. Learning Disability and other disabilities are still
not news worthy or on the top of people's agenda. That is a pity
when the Bill touches so closely on people's lives.
Are the objectives of the Draft Bill clear and
appropriate? Yes, but I believe it was a good move on the Government's
part to set up a Joint Committee; and hopefully the Government
will find it useful in its future thinking.
What I like in the Bill, and where it can be
improved: I believe the Government has drafted the Bill with good
will, and tried to give it as much flexibility as possible. However,
we hope for further listening to people with learning disabilities
both in refining the Bill and in drawing up the Codes of Practice.
The Bill and the Codes between them need to
make sure that:
The priority is people being allowed
to make their own decisions.
There is encouragement of listening
to people who don't use words but can communicate by other means.
People who need help in making or
stating their decisions have the support of independent advocacy
and circles of support.
Supporters for people are those who
know them well and are chosen by themsupporters they are
Disabled people and others with decision-making
problems are allowed time to make decisions with support, rather
than being rushed into someone else's decisions.
Where urgent decisions have to be
madefor example there is a life-threatening condition to
deal withthere is still hard listening to the person himself
or herself and to those who know them well, including the doctor
in medical cases.
The Code could usefully take as an example of
an important decision that is not urgent the decisions needed
around a holiday for a severely disabled person. Another more
significant example would be where someone lives (in cases where
the person can not simply decide that for themselves).
I welcome the safeguards in the Bill to protect
vulnerable people from abuse of their affairs, but I think there
need to be rights of appeal against assumptions being made that
they are not able to make decisions, and against decisions made
by others that seem to be abusive. The Bill as it stands does
not encourage independent advocacy by individuals or by circles
of supportin vetting decisions about competence, in vetting
decision making by alternative decision makers, and in supporting
We have lost in this draft the obligation of
Social Services Departments to protect vulnerable people where
their interests are being threatened.
I hope these points will be useful to the Committee
and to the Bill.