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Minority ethnic communities “missing out on Mental Capacity Act”

12 December 2008

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People from black and minority ethnic (BME) communities may be missing out on benefits of the Mental Capacity Act, according to a new report from the Mental Health Foundation.

Despite coming into force a year ago, the act – designed to support vulnerable people who lack capacity to make decisions, such as those with serious mental health problems, dementia, and learning disabilities – is little understood by those from BME communities.

The report, Engaging with BME communities about the Mental Capacity Act, funded by the Department of Health and Social Care Institute for Excellence as part of a programme of work on implementing the Mental Capacity Act, makes some important recommendations about how to improve its implementation.

The report identifies several reasons why people from a BME background have not been able to wholly engage with the act, including cultural issues and appropriateness of services.

The report says that the act deals with subjects viewed as private or taboo in some cultures, such as mental health, finances and death. Consequently, some service users and their families may not be able to engage in discussions.

The report also reveals that BME communities are confused about the role of Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA) services because awareness raising and training has primarily focused on staff. Many service users raised concerns about IMCA services provided under the act because they believe they are delivered by organisations with little or no link to local communities.

According to the Mental Health Foundation’s research, communication efforts to raise awareness of the act among BME groups are considered inadequate. Information materials, by their nature, are not able to explain the complexities of the act, and some concepts within the legislation not easily translated into other languages.

Mental Health Foundation