Eleanor Roosevelt, 1958

'Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home -- so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person... Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.' Eleanor Roosevelt, 1958

The Small Places has moved...

The Small Places has moved to a new home here, including all the old posts. Any posts after 6th March 2014 will appear on the new website, but old posts are preserved here so that URLs linking here continue to work. Please check out the new site.

Monday, 27 May 2013

MIND call for evidence on DOLS

If you have experience of Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards, MIND would like to hear from you.

In the autumn, the Supreme Court of England and Wales will be hearing two cases about the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) under the Mental Capacity Act 2005. The Court will consider what ‘deprivation of liberty’ means in the social care context.

Mind is going to provide independent evidence to the Court on how the DoLS system is working in practice and how it could be made clearer and safer for service users, their families and carers.

Mind are keen to hear from people who have experienced the DoLS system, whether as someone who is or has been under a DoLS, a family member of someone under a DoLS, an advocate working with people who lack capacity, a carer or a health and social care professional.

All the responses that we receive will feed into the evidence that Mind provides to the Supreme Court and will therefore assist the judges in making a decision that respects service users’ needs.

If you’d like to tell us about your experience with DoLS, please complete the short survey.

The survey closes on 6 June 2013.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Membership of House of Lords Ad Hoc Committee on the Mental Capacity Act published

A motion for the members of the House of Lords Ad Hoc Committee on the Mental Capacity Act 2005 has been published today.  The proposed members are:
Some of those names will be familiar to those in the mental health world.  Lord Hardie - the Chairperson - is a very senior lawyer.  There are quite a few medical professionals and lawyers. Lord Patel, of course, was until recently the chair of the Mental Health Act Commission.  Baroness Browning was involved with the original Bournewood Case and made several interventions in parliament during the drafting of the DOLS (including asking sensible questions like 'what does deprivation of liberty mean?' and 'do you think we've allocated enough resources to this?').  She was one of the people who called for post-legislative scrutiny of the Mental Capacity Act.  It is a shame that there are no peers with a disability rights background on this Committee, such as Baroness Campbell or Baroness Grey-Thompson, but hopefully the Committee will take an interest in the disability rights debates surrounding the Mental Capacity Act.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

The beauty of BAILII and RSS feeds

If you would like to set up an RSS feed for new cases mentioning particular key terms from BAILII, then check out what BAILII have been developing with this handy guide from iLegal (and ignore what I wrote below).  Using BAILII's own new RSS system, I have set up feeds for all cases from the European Court of Human Rights mentioning legal capacity and guardianship, feeds for all cases from the UK (and other jurisdictions, in case it's mentioned in passing) mentioning the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and all cases from the UK, Ireland, the ECtHR and the EU mentioning the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Ever wished you could have all the published cases about a particular topic or mentioning a particular key term piped directly to you?  Well, wish no longer, because the answer is here!

I am, as many bloggers are, a feed-monkey.  I love RSS feeds, the way they pipe blogs I follow and other feeds directly to my RSS reader, so I don't have to visit each site in turn (I am currently mourning the impending doom of Google Reader, but having a play with Feedly as a replacement).  For some time now I've been thinking, 'wouldn't it be cool if there was a way to set up an alert on BAILII for a particular keyword.  It's really tricky to do though - you can't use Google alerts as BAILII blocks search engines (here's why), and I found having to manually re-check BAILII'S search engine every week or so for new cases rather tiresome.  I dreamed of an RSS feed for ECtHR cases on legal capacity and guardianship, or one for UK cases on the Mental Capacity Act, but the consensus on twitter was that it couldn't be done... Until today, when clever old Judith Townend (of Meeja Law) worked out that you can set up a BAILII search using BAILII's own internal search engine (sorting by date), and then turn that into an RSS feed using Feedity.  It's so easy, you could easily set one up for your key-term tipple of choice.  You could play with setting up alerts for particular citations, judges, statutes... the possibilities are endless.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Advance Decisions: Documenting End-of-Life Wishes - the Legal and Ethical Framework.

Cardiff University are currently hosting the 'Before I Die Festival', a whole series of events about dying, for the living. Events range from music, art, poetry, theatre and film to expert panels and public debate.  On Monday 20th May, from 6-8pm, there is a seminar on advance decisions and documenting end of life wishes.  Talks include:
  • Professor Luke Clements, Law School, Cardiff University on The Mental Capacity Act and Advance Decisions
  • Philip Satherley from the charity Compassion in Dying about the template forms and information line they offer
  • Professor Sue Wilkinson, Social Sciences Dept, Loughborough University on what people say about why they want to write Advance Decisions 
  • Professors Jenny Kitzinger and Celia Kitzinger, Directors of the Cardiff-York Chronic Disorders of Consciousness Research Groups about how people who have family members in comas, vegetative states and minimally conscious states write ADs. 
  • Dr Anne-Marie Slowther , Chair of the UK Clinical Ethics Network and Associate Professor of Clinical Ethics at Warwick Medical School on "What if I change my mind?" 
  • Professor Penney Lewis, Law School, Kings College London on ADs and the Courts (including XB [2012] EWHC 1390 and D [2012] EWHC 885)
  • Nancy Berlinger, The Hastings Institute, on the experience of advance directives and other advance planning arrangements in the USA 
This particular seminar is part of an ESRC funded series of seminars on the topic.  The last one I went to was brilliant - really interesting and informative, with a range of views and perspectives.  The flyer is here:

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

What if...

It's been a really exciting week for me at the Centre.  On Monday we had the conference on supported decision-making (which I tweeted about) and today we were really spoiled as one of the delegates, Cher Nicholson, came to give a workshop on a project she ran in South Australia on supported decision making.  If you ever get the chance to go and see Cher speak about the project, I really really recommend that you do - it is relevant to everybody who comes into contact with issues around 'mental capacity' - from people said to 'lack capacity', to their friends and family, to social services, care providers, lawyers and disability NGOs.  It's one of the most inspirational things I've seen in a long time.

Anyway, enough adulation and down to brass tacks.  What was this project and why is it exciting and why should everyone in the UK (and my new home, Ireland) be thinking about it?  The project was set up by the Office of the Public Advocate (OPA) in South Australia.  Now, despite the name, the role is closer to the Office of the Public Guardian in the UK, only they actually provide the guardians - they don't just register and monitor them (apparently in South Australia they don't use social workers or solicitors as guardians - if family can't be the guardian, then OPA provide one).  Apparently (I'm being too lazy and not looking this up) South Australia has very high rates of entry into guardianship, and they were looking for a project to explore alternatives to guardianship.  So the project was initially conceived by OPA to look for ways to support people to make decisions for themselves, to avoid entry into guardianship, and they employed Cher Nicholson to coordinate it.