Social work and end-of-life care

Social work is important in end-of-life care

A gilded cage is still a cage – Supreme Court deprivation of liberties decision

leave a comment »

A Supreme Court decision on some of the most discussed of Deprivation of Liberties cases is now reported. A legal commentary indicates that these represent major changes in the DOLS law; the legal commentary suggests:

There are likely to be thousands of people who were not considered to be deprived of their liberty yesterday who will be today in light of this judgment.

It recommends that all local authorities and NHS organisations should review their caseloads; they will probably have to issue DOLS documentation in numerous cases where it was not thought necessary.

The judgement by the respected Lady Hale reviews the history of DOLS law in the UK and European Court of Human Rights decisions, some of which took place after previous lower courts in the UK had decided the cases in question here. It’s a very good primer on the existing law, and of course, as always with Lady Hale, very clearly written and calling on the original sources. No unnecessary legal jargon here.

Here are some useful quotations:

(at 34) People who lack the capacity to make (or implement) their own decisions about where to live may justifiably be deprived of their liberty in their own best interests. They may well be a good deal happier and better looked after if they are. But that does not mean that they have not been deprived of their liberty. We should not confuse the question of the quality of the arrangements which have been made with the question of whether these arrangements constitute a deprivation of liberty.

(at 35) …it is quite clear that a person may be deprived of his liberty without knowing it. An unconscious or sleeping person may not know that he has been locked in a cell, but he has still been deprived of his liberty. A mentally disordered person who has been kept in a cupboard under the stairs (a not uncommon occurrence in days gone by) may not appreciate that there is any alternative way to live, but he has still been deprived of his liberty. We do not have any difficulty in recognising these situations as a deprivation of liberty. We should not let the comparative benevolence of the living arrangements with which we are concerned blind us to their essential character if indeed that constitutes a deprivation of liberty.

(at 36) The whole point about human rights is their universal character. The rights set out in the European Convention are to be guaranteed to “everyone” (article 1). They are premised on the inherent dignity of all human beings whatever their frailty or flaws. The same philosophy underpins the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)…

(at 37) …what is the essential character of a deprivation of liberty? It is common ground that three components can be derived from Storck, paras 74 and 89, confirmed in Stanev, paras 117 and 120, as follows: (a) the objective component of confinement in a particular restricted place for a not negligible length of time; (b) the subjective component of lack of valid consent; and (c) the attribution of responsibility to the state…

45. In my view, it is axiomatic that people with disabilities, both mental and physical, have the same human rights as the rest of the human race. It may be that those rights have sometimes to be limited or restricted because of their disabilities, but the starting point should be the same as that for everyone else. This flows inexorably from the universal character of human rights, founded on the inherent dignity of all human beings, and is confirmed in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Far from disability entitling the state to deny such people human rights: rather it places upon the state (and upon others) the duty to make reasonable accommodation to cater for the special needs of those with disabilities.

46. Those rights include the right to physical liberty, which is guaranteed by article 5 of the European Convention. This is not a right to do or to go where one pleases. It is a more focussed right, not to be deprived of that physical liberty. But, as it seems to me, what it means to be deprived of liberty must be the same for everyone, whether or not they have physical or mental disabilities. If it would be a deprivation of my liberty to be obliged to live in a particular place, subject to constant monitoring and control, only allowed out with close supervision, and unable to move away without permission even if such an opportunity became available, then it must also be a deprivation of the liberty of a disabled person. The fact that my living arrangements are comfortable, and indeed make my life as enjoyable as it could possibly be, should make no difference. A gilded cage is still a cage.

And even a good quality, but over-controlling, social care provision aimed at providing for a disabled person’s well-being still deprives them of their liberty, so you have to apply the safeguards.

For social workers and providers of social care, this makes it clear that even if what you are doing is for someone’s protection, and even if disability may lead to concern for someone’s safety and well-being, close supervision and restriction in the freedom to decide where you can go is still a deprivation of liberty, and requires the use of the safeguards.

Link to legal commentary: Supreme Court hands down decision on the joint appeals of Cheshire West and P&Q (MIG & MEG) – the Court ruled that all three were deprived of their liberty – Lexology.

Link to the Supreme Court Judgment Look for 19th March 2014 and click on ‘judgment’ in the right hand column in the cases of P and P and Q to get a pdf; the pdf is the same in both cases, since the judgment covers both cases. P and Q is what has been known as MIG and MEG in earlier proceedings.

Advertisements

Written by Malcolm Payne

21 March 2014 at 12:40 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s