Ten days to (try to) change the law #LBBill #JusticeforLB

Another year and another chance to effect change through encouraging MPs to sponsor the #LBBill in the Private Members Bill Ballot.

The #LBBill is an idea to change the law for disabled people so that they have more control over what happens in their lives.

Last year we were unsuccessful in getting the bill sponsored but the events of the past twelve months have underlined how important, sadly, our proposed bill remains.

We need to promote the #LBBill to all MPs. You can read the latest draft by clicking here or on the tab at the top of the page. As with everything #JusticeforLB it has been developed organically and collaboratively, gathering feedback from far and wide including hundreds of disabled people, family members and allies. You can watch a short film (6 mins) about the #LBBill, where it came from and why it’s important here:

We need to contact as many MPs as possible to make them aware of the #LBBill and ask for their support in the Private Member’s Ballot. You can write to your MP via the WriteToThem website (it’ll even tell you who your MP is if you’re not sure); you could also tweet your MP and ask them to pledge their support to the Bill. If you’re unsure of what to say, you could include any of the following:

Please tell your MP that you support the #JusticeforLB campign and that you’re asking them to support a Private Members Bill drafted by the campaign.

Please also explain that supporters of the campaign have come together to draft a Bill which would promote and protect disabled people’s right to live in the community with choices equal to others and the support they need.

It has become known as ‘LB Bill’ in memory of Connor Sparrowhawk (who was known as LB or Laughing Boy).

Your MP might like to know that the Bill has had feedback from hundreds of disabled people, family members and allies.

The Bill has mass support, as you can see by clicking here or on the supporters tab above.

It builds on existing legislation, including the Care Act 2014.

Sign off encouraging your MP to support this Bill and why not ask them to encourage their colleagues to do so. Also encourage them, if they are eligible for and successful in the Private Members Bill ballot, to sponsor the Bill.

Thank you.

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Law Commission consultation and the #LBBill

The Law Commission consultation on ‘Mental Capacity and Deprivation of Liberty‘ closes in a week’s time (on 2 November 2015). The consultation has detailed proposals about new law to manage deprivations of liberty and restrictive care in a wide range of settings, including the family home. There are full and easy read versions of the consultation available. The Law Commission is the official law reform body and has an excellent strike rate in getting its proposals into law; so this consultation definitely matters.

The #LBBill team hope everyone will respond to the whole consultation (what can we say we’re optimists) but above all we need you to respond to the ideas in the consultation which reflect our draft Bill. The consultation is a fantastic opportunity to get some of the ideas in #LBBill into law, but this won’t happen unless there are lots of positive responses to this part of the consultation.

The discussion about the #LBBill ideas starts at para 6.87 of the full consultation document, where the consultation is considering ‘Safeguards when a placement is being considered’. After setting out some terrible cases (including Mark and Steven’s case) the consultation paper says at para 6.94 that ‘Cases of this sort have generated calls for law reform’ (damn right).

At 6.96 the paper summarises some of the key ideas in #LBBill, being:

1. The ban on the cost of care at home being capped by reference to the cost of residential care
2. The requirement to seek the most appropriate living arrangement, with the starting point being the person’s own choices and views – and approval need from the person or the Court of Protection
3. Duties on local authorities and the NHS to report on living arrangements and community support.

The Law Commission’s ‘provisional view’ on these ideas is at para 6.98-6.101. The Commission starts by highlighting the need for greater independent advocacy as a safeguard. However they say they are ‘interested in exploring the possibility of additional safeguards for the person, and their family and carers, when a move into accommodation is being considered’. The Commission specifically say that they would ‘welcome views on the proposals put forward in the LB Bill’.

There are then three questions, which are the questions to which we need supporters of #LBBill to respond:
· Question 6-10 Should local authorities and the NHS in England ever set personal budgets for disabled people living at home by reference to the cost of meeting the person’s needs in residential care? (Suggested answer: no, definitely not)
· Question 6-11 Should there be a duty on local authorities and the NHS…(1) to secure the most appropriate living arrangement for that person, which as far as possible reflects the person’s wishes and feelings; and (2) to seek the agreement of any done of a Lasting Power of Attorney or deputy, or a declaration from the Court of Protection? (Suggested answer: yes, then please explain why you think this would make a difference)
· Question 6-12 Should local authorities and the NHS be required to report annually on issues relating to living arrangements and community support? (Suggested answer: yes, see clause 6 of the draft Bill for what exactly we think they should report on)

Responses can be sent by email to Tim Spencer-Lane. You can just send an email responding to these questions and any others you have enough time or interest to answer (there is a summary of the questions on p201). There is also a postal address (1st Floor, Tower, Post Point 1.54, 52 Queen Anne’s Gate, London SW1H 9AG) although the Commission ask for email responses if possible.

Please respond if you can to help make sure we take this chance to get at least some of the #LBBill ideas into law.

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If you want to know more about the other areas generating a lot of debate, check out this article in Community Care by Andy McNicoll.

What’s next for the #LBBill?

Despite the hard work of our supporters it is now clear that there will not be a sponsor for #LBBill from this year’s private members’ bill ballot. None of the top seven MPs who were the focus of our efforts seem to have a real commitment to disability rights and all have chosen to adopt other causes.

This is of course a huge disappointment for everyone, but we always knew changing the law to help make a reality of disabled people’s right to live in the community with equal choices would probably take some time. We will be back for the 2016 ballot armed with the knowledge gained from this year (see some initial thoughts below).

We don’t have to wait until next June though. We are expecting two other developments that could give us a chance to get the ideas in #LBBill into law:

1. The Law Commission (the official body responsible for improving and updating the law) has just published its consultation paper on a new scheme to govern ‘deprivations of liberty’, cases where disabled people are subject to continued supervision and control and are not free to leave where they live. In developing their thinking the Law Commission team have shown a real interest in #LBBill and a number of our ideas our featured and discussed within the consultation. We now need you all to respond to the consultation to ask the Law Commission to adopt as many of the #LBBill principles as possible in their draft legislation. As the Law Commission has an excellent strike rate at getting its draft bills adopted this could be an excellent route to get the #LBBill ideas into law.

2. The new Care Minister, Alistair Burt, has confirmed that there will be a response to the ‘No Right Ignored’ Green Paper in the autumn. The Green Paper has been criticised by some (see the response from People First England) but it did put forward a version of some of the ideas from #LBBill. After the summer we will be pressing the government to introduce legislation in line with #LBBill as its response to the Green Paper, that was what we asked for in the campaign response and we know Inclusion London also asked for this, we hope other individual supporters and organisations did too. We hope people will lobby their MPs about this when they return in September.

So what have we learned from the process of trying to get a sponsor for #LBBill after this year’s private member’s bill ballot? Here are some initial thoughts:

1. The supporters of #JusticeforLB and #LBBill continue to be brilliant in their passion and commitment to the cause. 337 MPs were contacted, with many of you managing to get your MPs engaged and willing to discuss the issues in the Bill. Unfortunately none of these MPs won the ballot this year, which is the nature of a lottery like this.

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2. With some notable exceptions, MPs are not yet ready, willing and/or able to engage properly with online campaigning. The level of response to tweets to MPs was low. MPs did better with email, but even then a surprising number of emails from constituents went ignored. Lots of others to Conservative MPs got identical template responses, which on the plus side at least means we got their attention sufficiently for someone to produce a template! We may need more offline campaigning next year. If people turn up to MPs’ surgeries in person they are a lot less easy to ignore than an email or tweet.

3. We almost certainly need to start earlier, and we could make use of some of the Parliamentary processes like All Party Parliamentary Groups to help get MPs ‘warmed up’ to the Bill before they get lobbied by their constituents. Of course, next year we will have the benefit of all this year’s work to build on.

4. None of the big disability organisations have really got behind the Bill. The National Autistic Society and Mencap sent a tweet each in support, but as far as we know that was the limit of the big charities’ public support. By contrast there has been brilliant active support from some disabled people’s organisations and individual disability campaigners. Would active support from the big charities have made a real difference this time? We’ll never know, perhaps we’ll find out in 2016.

5. There are fewer disability champions in the House of Commons that you might expect, and certainly fewer than we need. As such we all have a responsibility to make sure our MPs know that disability rights issues must be a priority.

So the struggle will continue into 2016 and beyond. But hey, why should we expect to change the law in short time when it’s taken two years to get precisely zero justice for LB himself?

All comments and suggestions on next steps are welcome below. You can also post any ideas here about the content of Draft 2 of the Bill or email us. We would very much appreciate events being held by local groups to discuss the Bill in the coming months, all the resources you should need are here.

What will the #LBBill cost?

One of the key considerations that we have had to consider since proposing and developing the #LBBill has had to be about whether it makes financial sense! As much as quality of life experience for disabled people is our paramount concern, it would have been remiss of us to draft and co-produce a Bill without considering the question of what the Bill would cost. To that end Professor Chris Hatton, has done some number crunching and projections for us:

Obviously, human rights shouldn’t come with a price tag. Equally obviously, MPs thinking about sponsoring the #LBBill as a Private Member’s Bill are going to ask the question about the cost consequences of implementing the #LBBill. This short blogpost cannot provide a definitive answer to this question, but it will try and sketch out some of the main cost issues involved, and suggest that the #LBBill will not result in an explosion in the costs of supports for disabled people.

Two clauses in the #LBBill involve changes to the way that public services work with disabled people to make decisions:

Clause 5. Living arrangements to be subject to approval, and

Clause 10. Duty to involve disabled people and supporters in decisions made about their care

These changes should be cost neutral, as they do not directly change the actual support offered to disabled people. Increases in time spent to gain the approval of disabled people should be balanced by reductions in current levels of pointless monitoring and scrutiny of disabled people and the consequences of services making poor decisions without regard to the person’s wishes. Substantial public money is already spent on these processes (for example, almost £300 million was spent on assessment and care management just for working age adults with learning disabilities by local authorities in 2012/13 click here for more).

Two clauses in the #LBBill specify guidance and consultation arrangements, and reporting requirements:

Clause 6. Duty to report on living arrangements and community support, and

Clause 11. Guidance

These are likely to be cost neutral, as public bodies already have a range of reporting requirements concerning their treatment of disabled people, and the reporting requirements here are likely to replace or become part of existing annual reporting arrangements (for example the Autism Self-Assessment Framework and the Learning Disability Self-Assessment Framework).

A further two clauses in the #LBBill involve amendments to existing legislation:

Clause 7. Amendments to Mental Capacity Act 2005

Clause 8. Removal of people with learning disabilities and autistic spectrum conditions from scope of Mental Health Act 1983

Firstly to ensure that the Mental Capacity Act operates in line with its original intentions, and secondly to remove people with learning disabilities and autistic spectrum conditions from aspects of the Mental Health Act. These clauses will at worst be cost-neutral, as they may prevent some people being admitted to inappropriate and expensive inpatient services (at an average cost of over £171,000 per person per year) without due process or regard to people’s actual needs both in the short-term and long-term.

The remaining five clauses of the #LBBill are explicitly concerned with services and supports for disabled people:

Together, and in concert with the clauses already mentioned, they aim to ensure that all disabled should be able to live in the community with choices equal to others and the support necessary to ensure their full inclusion and participation in the community (Clause 1. Implementation of Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities).

Furthermore, public bodies cannot use the cost of residential care as a benchmark from which to evaluate people’s requests for non-residential support (Clause 2. Residential care not relevant to decisions in relation to community support for disabled people), and they have a duty to secure the most appropriate living arrangement with the disabled person, with financial considerations secondary to Clause 1 (Clause 4: Duty to secure most appropriate living arrangement).

To underpin these clauses, there is a duty to secure enough community support of the types that disabled people want and need (Clause 3. Duty to secure sufficient supply of community support), including community mental health services (Clause 9. Duty to provide community mental health services to disabled people).

Because the #LBBill would result in disabled people making meaningful decisions about where they are living and how they are to be supported in ways that have not happened to date for the majority of disabled people, it is impossible to construct a cast-iron economic model of the cost implications of the #LBBill.

However, there are good reasons to assume that an explosion in costs will not happen as a result to the #LBBill:

1) There are considerable public resources locked into inappropriate inpatient services for less than 3,000 people with learning disabilities and/or autism (over £500 million every year), with the #LBBill projected to result in a drastic reduction in these services. More is also likely to be spent on residential special schools for disabled children, from which considerable savings could also be made.

2) The #LBBill is likely to result in a considerable reduction in the number of people in more expensive and restrictive residential care homes or nursing homes (for example, over 35,000 adults with learning disabilities are in these services at an annual cost of over £2 billion, at a unit cost of almost £70,000 per year per person).

3) Less restrictive and more desirable alternatives such as tenancies with decent support, or shared lives arrangements, are on average less expensive than residential or nursing care, as are community supports such as home care and support from professionals. The savings made from reduced use of highly restrictive services would allow increased use of effective non-residential supports funded at decent levels to allow people to lead meaningful lives.

4) Sizeable amounts of public money are also spent on community-based services and direct payments (at least £1.7 billion per year for working age adults with learning disabilities, for example), which would also be part of the resources covered by the #LBBill. Under the #LBBill, as disabled people have more of a role in commissioning decisions, it is likely that more creative commissioning decisions will be made, linking services to broader supports available to all such as community leisure facilities and libraries.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that the #LBBill is consistent with and would add considerable force to the general direction of NHS England and local authority policy. In particular, the joint NHS England and ADASS ‘Transforming Care’ plans include plans to drastically reduce inpatient services for people with learning disabilities and/or autism, to correspondingly increase and improve community-based supports, and to develop effective supports for considerable numbers of children and families to reduce crises and support people to lead meaningful lives.

Overall, my view is that the #LBBill will not result in an explosion of costs in supports for disabled people. Well over £6 billion pounds per year is currently being spent on services for adults with learning disabilities, for example, yet existing services are often seen by disabled people as obstructive and unfair.

Getting the #LBBill into law is the most effective way of driving really significant changes in the lives of disabled people that are otherwise at risk, despite the best intentions of the Care Act, NHS England and local authorities.

Private Members Bill process

This is a very short post to explain the process of how we hope to get the ideas in #LBBill into law through the private members’ bill process.

A private members’ bill is a proposal for a new law from a backbench MP, by contrast to the majority of bills which are put forward by the government. There is a guide to private members bills on the Parliament website.

There are several different types of private members’ bill, but only one type stands any realistic chance of becoming law. This is a ‘ballot bill’ which is introduced by an MP who is drawn in the private members’ bill annual ballot. This ballot is taking place next week, on Thursday 4 June.

The reason getting drawn high up in the ballot matters is that only the first six or seven MPs will get the time required for their bill to be debated in Parliament. So the answer to the question ‘which MP do we want to sponsor #LBBill?’ is a very simple ‘any of the top MPs drawn in the ballot, the higher the better’.

That said, we would like all MPs to be informed about the #LBBill and to support it. If we can get a well-placed sponsor he or she will need to convince dozens of their Parliamentary colleagues to support the bill to get it through the various stages and on to the statute books.

So we would ask all our supporters to keep lobbying their MPs now, and if next week your MP is one of the lucky ones chosen high up in the ballot, get in touch and we can plot further about how to approach them to request their support to be an #LBBill sponsor.

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First 100 MPs contacted #JusticeforLB #LBBill

What a phenomenal 24 hours in the Justice Shed! Thanks to all of you we now know the first hundred MPs have been informed about/asked to support the #LBBill. LBBillContactedMPs_First100

In true #JusticeforLB fashion we’ve needed to rely on our amazing ‘crowd’ to get to this point and we’re extremely grateful to each and every one of you who has emailed, tweeted, written or messaged their MP.

The Private Members Bill ballot happens in ten days on Thursday 4 June, and we’d like to reach many, many more MPs before then, so if you’ve not had a chance yet please do contact them. We’re hoping to turn the whole map green.

Please still contact your MP even if you’ve seen someone else already has done so; the more they get the message that this is important to their constituents, the greater our chance of change.

Together we can improve things for disabled people, not bad for a bit of bank holiday activism.

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Tell your MP about the #LBBill

For those of you following #107days this is a duplicate post – for anyone who isn’t this is for your information and action: 

The #LBBill is an idea to change the law for disabled people so that they have more control over what happens in their lives. We need your help to achieve that.

We need to promote the #LBBill to all the MPs (new and old) now in Westminster. You can read the latest draft by clicking here or on the tab at the top of the page. As with everything #JusticeforLB it has been developed organically and collaboratively, gathering feedback from far and wide including hundreds of disabled people, family members and allies. You can watch a short film (6 mins) about the #LBBill, where it came from and why it’s important here:

We need to contact as many MPs as possible to make them aware of the #LBBill and ask for their support in the Private Member’s Ballot. You can write to your MP via the WriteToThem website (it’ll even tell you who your MP is if you’re not sure); you could also tweet your MP and ask them to pledge their support to the Bill. If you’re unsure of what to say, you could include any of the following:

Please tell your MP that you support the #JusticeforLB campign and that you’re asking them to support a Private Members Bill drafted by the campaign. Please also explain that supporters of the campaign have come together to draft a Bill which would promote and protect disabled people’s right to live in the community with choices equal to others and the support they need. It has become known as ‘LB Bill’ in memory of Connor Sparrowhawk (who was known as LB or Laughing Boy).

Your MP might like to know that the Bill is on its second draft and has had feedback from hundreds of disabled people, family members and allies. The Bill has mass support, as you can see by clicking here or on the supporters tab above. It builds on existing legislation, including the Care Act 2014.

Sign off encouraging your MP to support this Bill and why not ask them to encourage their colleagues to do so. Also encourage them, if they are eligible for and successful in the Private Members Bill ballot, to sponsor the Bill. It would help us if you asked them to reply to let you know whether they support the Bill. It takes two minutes to pledge their support and they can do so here: http://eepurl.com/73mXX

Please add a comment to the #107days post with your MP’s name (and their party and your constituency if you know it) once you’ve contacted them directly, this will help us keep track on how many MPs know about the Bill (and commenting there will keep all the names in one place). If your MP replies and has any specific questions or wishes to discuss the #LBBill then they can email us at LBBillFeedback@gmail.com

We look forward to the pledges of support flooding in, there are 600 MPs so we’ve quite a lot of work to do!

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