AMCP to ECHR: An acronym buster for social workers and Best Interest Assessors

16 December 2021

Daisy Jackson-Bogg is an Independent Social Worker, BIA and AMHP, director of social work training and consultancy organisation DCC-i, and former course lead for our Best Interests Assessor and BIA Refresher courses. We sat down recently with her to unpack some of the jargon social workers need to know, especially with the upcoming implementation of the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Act 2019. In the first of this series of 'acronym busters', Daisy guides us through five key terms. 

As anyone who lives in adult health and social care is probably well aware, it’s definitely winter and definitely not spring, and yet (at time of writing) we are all still stood around singing "why are we waiting?" for the much anticipated consultation on the new code of practice and regulations that will accompany the implementation of the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Act 2019 and introduce a new scheme for managing and authorising deprivations of liberty – the Liberty Protection Safeguards (known as LPS). 

Unless something dramatic has happened, it is likely that when this goes to press, we’ll still be waiting. For the eagle-eyed amongst you, you’ll notice that while we haven’t had an official announcement, it is now not possible for the consultation, response and parliamentary process to be completed in time for an April 2022 roll-out.

I noticed when discussing the upcoming consultation how many different acronyms I was using, both new and old, and thought that it would be helpful to impart some wisdom on social work vernacular and the terminology you need to know. I haven’t got enough words in this piece to do the whole lot, but let's start from the top and go alphabetically. This is my personal A-E of LPS acronyms and jargon. I’m a social worker – I like order in my world!

A is for AMCP

...or AMCaP as it’s been called in BIA world. This is a much-discussed new role which will be replacing the BIA. The AMCP will be a role set out in secondary legislation (one of the things we are waiting for) and will have independent decision making. The intention with this was to create a role comparable to the Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) under the Mental Health Act 1983 (a topic for another day!). Currently we know only partial information and once the consultation finally does happen there will be a flurry of activity whilst the sector and its regulators work out how it's going to work in practice.

B is for BIA

We presume people know what this is, but in case you don’t, the BIA is a Best Interests Assessor. I’m one of these alongside the work I do in independent consultancy and the programme I deliver here at the Tavistock and Portman. It is one of the independent assessor roles in the current DoLS scheme – skip ahead to D for what a DoLS is!

Best Interests Assessor

If anyone asks me about the BIA role, I say it’s important, it can make a real difference and is hugely underrated. Whilst the BIA makes recommendations for the relevant Supervisory Body (Local Authorities unless you’re in Wales – we’ll cover these under S later) rather than authorising the restrictions placed on someone like the AMHP does, that doesn’t make it any less powerful or any less important.

As a BIA I believe you approach a person differently than when you are doing care and support elements of practice. The BIA considers how support is provided, and considers that in the context of how intrusive that might be for the person concerned. The BIA role is one of objective consideration of the person, their risks and needs, and balancing the dual role of providing protection (in this case, a safeguard under DoLS, which means a person has the right to challenge) and promoting autonomy. By asking the questions and providing recommendations we create a space where it becomes possible for a person's quality of life to be improved – not something to be sniffed at, in my book.

While some areas have stopped training new BIAs, opting instead to wait for the implementation of LPS and the introduction of the AMCP role, others are continuing to train practitioners in the role, and here at the Tavi we are planning at least one more qualifying programme (maybe two depending on what the implementation timeline is). We feel that the foundations of the two roles – that being application of the Human Rights Act (which I will cover in my next blog!) and the ability to collate, reflect and analyse multifaceted information and perspectives – are vital skills for practice, and it’s the process by which it is administered that is changing, not the skills themselves. Also, the proposed conversion training will provide that piece of the puzzle for those currently practicing or doing their training before the world changes again.

C is for...

...Court of Protection (COP), code of practice (CoP) and of course 'capacity' (not an acronym, but needs saying anyway). These are all very important in the current and future Deprivation of Liberty arrangements. The new code of practice, that will set out what we need to be doing for the Liberty Protection Safeguards (LPS) implementation, is one of the key things we are currently waiting for. Until that comes, the world is in limbo – yes, it is that important in this area of practice! C is also for 'case law', not an acronym but sometimes feels like it. In March 2014 the world of DoLS was turned on its head, all because of a single judgement. It’s an important subject, but I’ll save it for another day and get on with my alphabet.

D is for DoLS and DoL

A Deprivation of Liberty (DoL) can occur in any setting, and the current system – the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) – only applies in a care home or hospital setting. At the moment, if you are deprived of your liberty (or DoL – no ‘s’) at home or in another community or care setting, the only place where authorisation can be given is via the Court of Protection if you lack the capacity to decide for yourself (see letter C), or by consent (another C!), or the High Court under its inherent jurisdiction (yes, that’s a topic for another day too!).

E is for ECHR and ECtHR

...and all things Europe. The European Convention for Human Rights (ECHR) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) are nothing to do with Brexit despite what the tabloids might hint at. The UK was one of the original parties to the convention, signing up to it in the 1950s, many years before the EU. Whilst successive Conservative governments have stated an intent to withdraw from the convention and hence sever the UK’s accountability to the European Court, this is yet to happen and will take processes and arrangements beyond the current Brexit wrangles. It might happen eventually, but the government has a lot in its to-do list at this moment, so don’t hold your breath.

There's a lot to take in there, but that’s a good starting point for some of the terms you might hear flying about as the sector gears up for implementing the new scheme. Watch this space for the next in this series of acronym busters, and for updates on the consolidation as get them...

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