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.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

What constitutes news?

I am completely befuddled by what constitutes news.  John Hemming MP drafts an Early Day Motion calling for some random inquiry for Parliament to review urgent applications in the Court of Protection.  That's news, according to the Daily Mail and the Independent.  Parliament actually sets up a dedicated Committee to examine the functioning of the Mental Capacity Act - covering various issues around human rights, the Court of Protection and even hears evidence on urgent applications.  That is not news (or at least, it is not news that I have been able to locate anywhere except the ever-trustworthy Community Care).

Not a month passes, it seems, without a newspaper headline proclaiming 'secrecy' in the Court of Protection or the Family Courts.  Sir James Munby - the new President of the Family Division and the Court of Protection - announces the first in what looks set to be a whole series of major transparency reforms.  Is that news? Apparently not.

One of the most important things about the House of Lords Committee on the Mental Capacity Act is that it offers a rare opportunity for people to have input into parliamentary scrutiny of a law that will affect the personal and working lives of millions of people in this country.  It also offers an almost unique opportunity for those with first hand experience of the Court of Protection to tell their stories without falling into contempt of court.  Yet the media, it seems, are only interested in these stories when they get to control the narrative.  Otherwise, surely they would be doing something useful, like publicising this opportunity so that real people, and not just the kind of geeks who stumble upon this blog, actually know about this opportunity to offer some feedback on this law.  It may not be as glamorous as Leveson, but the chances of the Mental Capacity Act affecting the lives of ordinary people are a lot higher than your phone being hacked.  And the consequences for those individuals are potentially much more drastic (validity of a marriage? live with your family or in a care home? detention? capacity to consent to sex? the right to refuse medical treatments? the right to life...?).

But I bet you, dear readers, that they will pick up on this case, when Mr C appeals against his committal to prison by the Court of Protection for flouting its orders.  Because why would you bother to cover evidence recently heard in the House of Lords that the Mental Capacity Act is frequently flouted, that there are serious, serious concerns about the unlawful deprivation of liberty of thousands of people whom we mightly aptly describe (after Margaret Flynn) as 'scandalously silenced', when you could cover the protestations of a single noisy man?

Anyway, perhaps whilst they are reporting Mr C's concerns, they might think of publicising the Committee's call for evidence whilst they're at it.  It's just a thought.

- Rant ends -

Ps. If you are a journalist and you are wondering what this Committee is all about, here's why it was set up, and here's a digest of the first evidence session (government officials), the second (legal experts, Law Society, and Liberty - who called for an inquiry), the third (evidence from those who campaigned for the Mental Capacity Act, and experts involved in the Winterbourne View Scandal and the CIPOLD study).  The fourth evidence session was today and heard from major charities like Mencap, Mind, the Alzheimer's Society, the Down Syndrome Association, the National Autistic Society and Headway - I'll post a digest once the transcript is published.  And you might also be interested to learn that the Equality and Human Rights Commission has announced that it will be conducting its own inquiry into a framework for detention under the Mental Capacity Act called the deprivation of liberty safeguards.

[Update 23/07/13: Apparently Munby LJ's transparency announcements are news after all for the Daily Mail (although they're still wrong about the Maddocks case - that transcript was published last year on MHLO), and the Telegraph and the Indy have covered a Court of Protection case about selling a Pissarro painting to pay for a person's care bills.  But still no coverage of the House of Lords Select Committee...]


  1. Are you calling me a geek?

  2. great post; reminds us why the public's right to receive information is such a crucial part of ECHR Article 10. Media whimsy doesn't always provide it!


    Where I live one see's posters regarding Safeguarding and if one has concerns to report this to your local authorities Adult Social Care Team...

    What if you have concerns regarding a professional in this field of work and you want to report a Safeguarding regarding this professional where do you go? At the moment one is directed to the perpetrators office????

    One does not do this lightly as you must have evidence that coercion and intimidation has taken place.

    This does not give families the confidence to alert safeguarding concerns especially if the concerns are regarding the very professionals that one is supposed to trust.

    When you do make a Safeguarding concern it is poo poo'ed, and not taken very seriously.

    Surely, "What's good for the goose must be good for the gander??????"

    So please can we have a discussion about this?

    1. Your concerns mirror mine. It has taken 4 years of persistence and involvement of others with 'clout' and persistence to get any acknowledgement of substandard adult social services safeguarding.

      Bad and incompetent and seriously harmful acts (TO THE MOST VULNERABLE IN SOCIETY) are,from my experience, meted out at the hands of social services- but no where is this recorded, because as you say people have no where to complain or cannot trust the system 'of care' that is actually causing more harm than protecting.

      If more people join up as a force to take away safeguarding from social work as a system that protects its staff, then in time we may get the kind of general protection needed. Then only those cases where harm is / has been serious, as determined by the elders as the protected- not civil servants in the DoH, will be investigated and not by the persons working in the system itself, to avoid witch hunts.

      If the bad use of DOLs is anything to go by harm to the vulnerable is widespread by the 'protection machinery' itself.