‘Best interest’ principle in legal capacity legislation unacceptable!

Reform of legal capacity legislation to comply with the international human rights standards cannot be underpinned by the concept of ‘best interest’, concluded the participants of Inclusion Europe’s annual roundtable meeting on legal capacity and supporting decision-making entitled ‘Choice and control in my life’.

National and European experts met yesterday in Belfast to discuss that forthcoming reform of legal capacity legislation that is expected to turn the decision-making rights of persons with intellectual disabilities in Northern Ireland into reality.
Camille Latimier, Inclusion Europe’s Policy Manger added: “With the EU and most of its member states having ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, reform of national and regional legislations to comply with Article 12 is of major importance for members of Inclusion Europe. It would be a big step for the realisation of the rights of people with intellectual disabilities if we can challenge the prejudice of incapacity and create new provisions to support decision-making.’ she said.

Commenting on the proposal of new legal capacity legislation currently underway in Northern Ireland, the participants called on government representatives to remove the concept of ‘best interest’, proposed as one of the two main pillars of future legislation, from the draft.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons Disabilities, the key reference point such reform, does not refer to the concept of ‘best interest’ in relation to adults with intellectual disabilities. The notion of ‘best interest’ directly implies that the decisions are taken by third person and is thus is irreconcilable with the model of supported-decision making put forward in the Convention.

“The right to make your decisions and be in control of your own destiny is a right that we all take for granted. Even with the common law presumption of capacity, people with a learning or intellectual disability are often asked to prove their capacity before being allowed to make routine everyday decisions, as well as decisions that are significant and serious in their life such as where they live and with whom, for example,” Inclusion Europe’s President Maureen Piggot said.
Second in the serious of annul roundtable meetings, the Belfast event was organised in cooperation with Mencap in Northern Ireland, Inclusion Ireland, the Law Centre in Northern Ireland and the Centre for Disability Law and Policy at the National University of Ireland in Galway.


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For more information, please, contact:

Silvana Enculescu
Communications Officer
Inclusion Europe
Tel: +32 2 502 28 15
Fax: +32 2 502 80 10
E-mail: s.enculescu@inclusion-europe.org

About the organisers:

Inclusion Europe (IE) is the European voice and representation of 70 member organisations of people with intellectual disabilities and their families. Founded in 1988, Inclusion Europe has an over 20-year track record of successful operation and defending the rights of its constituency.
For more information: www.inclusion-europe.org

There are 33,000 people with a learning disability in Northern Ireland (1.5m in the UK). Mencap works to support people with a learning disability and their families and carers by fighting to change laws and improve services and access to education, employment and leisure facilities. Mencap supports thousands of people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they want. Mencap is a member of Inclusion Europe. For more information: www.mencap.org.uk.

Inclusion Ireland, the National Association of People with Intellectual Disability, campaigns for changes in services and legislation that will improve the quality of life and participation of people with an intellectual disability in Irish Society. Established in 1961 as namhi, Inclusion Ireland has is an umbrella body for over 160 organisations and is a member of Inclusion Europe. For more information: http://www.inclusionireland.ie

Law Centre (NI) is a not for profit agency working to advance social welfare rights in Northern Ireland promoting social justice and providing specialist legal support to advice-giving organisations and disadvantaged individuals. For more information: www.lawcentreni.org

Centre for Disability Law and Policy at the National University of Ireland, Galway
The Centre is almost unique in Europe and among a handful in the world. It focuses on advancing social justice and human rights for persons with disabilities through legislative and policy reform. It takes the new United National Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (an instrument which its members helped to draft) as its moral and legal compass for change. The Centre is also engaged in many international and European research networks with a range of national research bodies on disability in Ireland. For more information: www.nuigalway.ie/cdlp
Funding for the event

The event is supported by the European Union Programme for Employment and Social Solidarity – PROGRESS (2007-20013) – which is implemented by the European Commission.
For more information see: http://ec.europa.eu/progress