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Understanding mental capacity
Understanding mental capacity

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2.2 Decision making and resources

Support for people with learning disabilities after a mental capacity assessment may be constrained by a lack of resources. This may be due to:

  • the macro health or otherwise of national and international economies
  • political decisions on priorities in social care
  • local authority priorities and inaccurate forecasting of need
  • an unfortunate combination of circumstances where, for a period of time, the right resource or the money to pay for the right resource, is just not there. In such circumstances, a person's vulnerability, which is assessed as being directly related to their impaired mental capacity, is knowingly compromised.

In the next activity you look at one such case, involving a young person called Matthew Garnett.

Activity 5 Matthew Garnett believes he is in prison

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

In 2016, Matthew Garnett was aged 16. He has autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and learning disabilities. He has complex and profound needs and is behaviourally challenging.

Read the BBC article below from February 2016. Then click through and listen to the audio [01:40 to 06:32], from the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘File on 4’ [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , first broadcast on 13th September 2016.

Campaign to help autistic boy, Matthew Garnett, who thinks he’s in prison

If you were Matthew's mother or father, what would your primary concerns for the future be? How would you ensure that his capacity to make decisions is enabled?

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Matthew’s parents were very concerned that the longer he stayed in a psychiatric hospital, the worse his behaviour became and the less likely it was that he would be transferred to a more suitable placement.

They are also likely to have worried that if he was sent home too soon or without support, their physical safety would be at risk, which would only serve to complicate things for him in the long run.

They had clearly lobbied effectively on his behalf; the petition they set up attracted a huge number of signatures in support of a swift resolution of Matthew’s situation. However, they must have felt despondent. Eventually, in March 2017, after 18 months in a psychiatric hospital, Matthew and his parents were informed that he was at last being transferred to a specialist autism unit.