News story

Appointment of the Chair of the National Mental Capacity Forum

Baroness Ilora Finlay has been appointed Chair of the new National Mental Capacity Forum.

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and the Department of Health (DH) are pleased to announce that Baroness Ilora Finlay has been appointed Chair of the new National Mental Capacity Forum.

This is a 3 year post commencing from 7 September 2015 . The appointments process was conducted in accordance with the Commissioner for Public Appointments Code of Practice on Ministerial Appointments to Public Bodies.

Biography

Baroness Finlay is a Crossbench Peer, having been made a Life Peer in 2001. She is a consultant in palliative medicine.

Baroness Finlay has had an extensive and distinguished parliamentary and medical career. The Baroness is formerly a member of several Parliamentary Select Committees including most recently Public Service and Demographic change (2012/13). She is a Fellow of both the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Royal College of Physicians and holds honorary fellowships at 7 institutions including Honorary Distinguished Professor at Cardiff University.

She is a frequent public speaker and extensively published author, who has appeared regularly in the media. Baroness Finlay was an active contributor to the legislative stages of the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) and has drafted guidance on the MCA and lectured on it.

National Mental Capacity Forum

The National Mental Capacity Forum is a joint new MOJ and DH initiative.

Its purpose is to work with stakeholders from health and social care, together with those from other sectors (for example, finance, legal, police, housing) to identify complementary actions which member organisations can pursue, especially at a local level, to improve implementation of the MCA.

The Forum will bring together those responsible for implementing the MCA to identify and take forward shared actions that realise benefits for service users. The Forum will consist of a small, core group of stakeholders representing different areas in the sector, and a larger group of associate members.

The Mental Capacity Act

The MCA is highly regarded legislation that protects and empowers individuals who may lack the mental capacity to make their own decisions (for example, due to dementia, learning disability or other mental health condition).

The scope of the MCA is vast – from decisions on where to live, to managing financial affairs to planning ahead for later life. Yet it is clear that awareness and understanding of the MCA is low. The House of Lords Select Committee report on the MCA of March 2014 stressed that as a result, many vulnerable people who may lack capacity are not receiving their rights under the law. The new National Mental Capacity Forum will seek to meet this challenge.

Baroness Ilora Finlay, Chair of the National Mental Capacity Forum said:

It is a great honour to be appointed to chair the National Mental Capacity Forum. Throughout my medical and parliamentary career I have been a passionate advocate for those whose voice is often not heard, putting the unique wishes and needs of the individual first and foremost.

Across our society we can and must ensure that people are appropriately supported and that we respect the intrinsic value of every person. The MCA provides strong, principled legislation to support this. The challenge of translating these principles to widespread practice is considerable – but the potential benefits are huge.

Over the next few weeks and months I will be reaching out to partners as we look to determine the new Forum’s priorities. At the heart of this will be supporting local cross-sector partnerships to bring about change. In some parts of the country I know there is excellent practice at many levels. But elsewhere this is not the case. Talk of poor MCA implementation will not, on its own, solve the problems. Real action and changes at many levels are needed now.

Alistair Burt, Minister of State for Community and Social Care, at DH said:

At any one time, an estimated 2 million people in England may lack the mental capacity to make decisions about their care and treatment. In the MCA we have legislation that stresses the importance of person-centred care. Yet awareness of the MCA is too low. People are not receiving their fundamental legal rights.

The new National Mental Capacity Forum will play a significant role in meeting this challenge and I am absolutely delighted that Baroness Finlay will lead this group. Baroness Finlay comes with a wealth of experience and a real passion for the rights of those who may struggle to have their voice heard.

Caroline Dinenage Justice Minister said:

I am delighted that Baroness Finlay has been appointed as Chair of the National Mental Capacity Forum. Her wealth of knowledge and experience will make a real difference to the lives of people who lack the capacity to make decisions for themselves.

The MCA is a fundamentally important piece of legislation that affects the lives of millions of people and it is vital that it is working properly. The new national forum will play a key role of overseeing how the MCA works. It will provide a wide range of views from outside government to help us drive significant improvements in implementation and awareness across the country.

Further information

Information is available on the government’s work on the MCA.

Appointments made April 2015 to March 2016