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Do more to protect vulnerable adults, say solicitors

Steps should be taken to raise awareness of legislation designed to protect vulnerable adults, according to the body representing solicitors in England and Wales.

The Mental Capacity Act (MCA) is designed to empower and protect people who may not be able to make some decisions for themselves because of an illness or disability, such as dementia, a mental health problem or a learning disability.

But in a submission to a House of Lords Select Committee, the Law Society said that frontline professionals working with vulnerable adults are frequently unaware of the act or lack the skills to put it into practice.

Nicola Mackintosh, a member of the Law Society’s mental health and disability committee, said on 10 September: “Safeguarding the dignity and wellbeing of people with impaired capacity should be a priority for government.

“Solicitors often handle the aftermath of poor implementation of the act and it is essential that steps are taken to increase awareness so our most vulnerable citizens are not at risk.

“Unfortunately, professional training for key front line staff has not kept pace with the increasing complexity of community care. We would like to see more training on the legal framework and practical application of the MCA.”

The Law Society’s submission also called for a review of deprivation of liberty provisions, which form part of the MCA and aim to make sure that people in care homes and hospitals are looked after in a way that does not inappropriately restrict their freedom.

Ms Mackintosh said the provisions need to be extended to protect the increasing number of people in supported living.