We are nothing if we are not experts in the human condition. As social workers we are among the few health and care professionals who can claim to see peoples’ problems in the full context of their day to day lives – often because we are involved in helping individuals and families make life enhancing decisions. Our intuition, coupled with our professional training, makes us uniquely placed to offer nuanced, sensitive insights into their welfare. And when it comes to assisting in cases where mental capacity is an issue, our expertise is increasingly being recognised.
The Law Commission has already acknowledged our professionalism as ‘Best Interest Assessors’ and the current mental capacity and deprivation of liberty safeguards (DoLS) consultation seeks, in part, to find ways to further acknowledge and exploit our skills in this area.
I will champion each and every opportunity for social workers to step up to the plate, demonstrating their professional responsibility and faith in their own decision making.
But don’t just take it from me, Rob Mitchell, Principal Social Worker at Calderdale Council, is similarly enthused about what more we are capable of, as his guest blog below demonstrates:
“If the proposals by the Law Commission are accepted and implemented, then the new role of Approved Mental Capacity Professionals (AMCPs) would be “in the same position legally as Approved Mental Health Professionals". Indeed, they will probably have more authority than AMHPs. Views have been expressed in some quarters that social work with adults has lost its way in recent years and questions asked about the role or even the need for social workers with adults. In this respect, the role of AMCP is a lifeline being thrown to the profession and it should be grabbed with both hands.
It is a role most naturally suited to social workers because of our profession's knowledge of and passion for human rights and the Mental Capacity Act. AMCPs will be the decision makers for the local authority, the ones safeguarding people's rights and wellbeing. What greater opportunity can there be for all those social workers who came into the profession saying they wanted to make a difference?
The AMCP will make sure the mental capacity of a person is assessed to a certain standard, which means, from the outset, there would be no grumbling about poor quality assessments completed by other professionals; they will decide who does it and will monitor the degree to which a person has been enabled and involved.
If a mental health assessment is required, the AMCP will determine if one is needed. That will mean, among other things, intrusive and expensive mental health assessments may not be needed on every occasion, for example, where a person has lived with dementia for years and the illness is well documented. They will also be the ones to consult in the event a proposed 28 day hospital authorisation needs to be extended. It will further ensure all parties involved are compliant with other legislation such as the Care Act. This opportunity should be welcomed by social workers who are frustrated when health colleagues are slow to appreciate human rights for all, regardless of age, disability or appearance.
The AMCP will work closely with the Care Quality Commission and safeguarding teams as well as with providers, families and advocates of those protected by the new scheme. This networking should be second nature to social workers with adults. They will be a source of knowledge and information about the Mental Capacity Act and will guide practitioners in its application, ensuring that people's rights are central to all state intervention.
There will be no need for expensive applications to the Court of Protection for the authorisation of the deprivation of liberty of a person living in their home or with supported living. The AMCP will take care of that and will also appoint people to support the person and displace them if they don't do the job properly. The degree of power is daunting and social workers will need to be at the top of their game for this role. There will be no making recommendations to signatories in supervisory bodies about conditions and so on; the AMCP will be:
- applying the conditions
- authorising the deprivation of liberty
- making sure everything done for a person who cannot consent because of mental impairment will be in their best interests and not those of the provider, commissioner or family.
They may also delegate certain tasks to other social workers. If it is not social workers taking on the role, then that could well mean other professionals who become AMCPs are delegating tasks to them.
The role will have a dramatic change in the way social work teams are managed, it there will be cost and recruitment difficulties not to mention the difficulties local authorities will have in ensuring quality is assured. But, if social workers can embrace the proposals and the role of the AMCP, I firmly believe there will be fewer abuses of human rights, a reduction in public money spent on lawyers, courts and mental health doctors, and less time spent waiting for things to be done."
Rob Mitchell is Service Manager and Principal Social Worker for Adult Social Work Service at Calderdale MBC
You can follow Rob on twitter @RobMitch92 and please do visit his blog site Last Quango in Halifax where 'the kettle is always on if you're passing!'