Professor Rosie Harding’s research exposes the inadequacies of domestic approaches towards safeguarding the rights of intellectually disabled people. Firstly, domestic law has been underpinned by the objective ‘best interests’ principle, which directly contradicts international legal standards such as the right to equality before the law protected by Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Secondly, she highlights that whilst the concept of ‘mental capacity’ is embedded within health and social care practice, there is a limited awareness of ‘legal capacity’. As a result, decision-making has to date focused on daily tasks, like what to eat or what to wear, and there is less support for significant decision-making available to people with intellectual disabilities. And thirdly, Professor Harding’s team found that care professionals were not always sure how to support intellectually disabled people to make more complex decisions about medical, financial and legal matters.
The Everyday Decisions research and Supported Will-Making follow up study included qualitative interviews with intellectually disabled people, their supporters, and health and social care professionals with experience of supporting decision-making. Professor Harding’s team found that there was not very much awareness and understanding of disabled people’s human rights, and that disabled people and care professionals would welcome more training about disability human rights, and especially about supporting decision-making.