Supported Decision Making & the I Decide project

Residential Forum member, James Churchill writes

Something that is often overlooked in the UK’s often
rancorous agonising over Brexit is that the EU does provide a helpful means for
us here in the UK to work with and learn from our social care counterparts in
other countries in Europe. The Erasmus+ programme provides a wide range of
options all designed to share learning and promote understanding between the
nations. Given the austerity-ravaged
state of finances in social care, the Erasmus+ programme also offers access to
a funding stream that can really benefit the social care sector in the UK.


What binds us all together (whether we are inside or outside
the EU) is our shared commitment to implement the United Nations Convention on
the Rights of Persons with a Disability (UNCRPD).  This Convention has important legal
implications for all four countries of the UK and how they deal with issues of
mental capacity. Reform is needed here in the UK.

in order to ensure compliance with developing international human rights
standards, notably those identified in the UNCRPD and ECHR, there is a need to
revisit and, where necessary reframe, our mental health and capacity law. This
applies to both how such law is framed and how it is implemented.”

Conclusions & recommendations pg
71, Scotland’s Mental Health and
Capacity Law: the Case for Reform, Mental
Welfare Commission for Scotland May 2017

The need to re-write the law in order to comply with the
UNCRPD is a common factor in most EU countries.
In some places the forces of inertia and vested interest are strong with
many legal (and other professionals) being gainfully employed in operating and
sustaining a system of guardianship or legal control of some kind authorised by
the courts. Making real progress in implementing Supported Decision Making
(SDM) is central to compliance with the UNCRPD.

A three year Erasmus+ project called I Decide is just ending, which brings the prospect of SDM a little
closer.  It took an entirely pragmatic
approach to SDM, recognising that high level changes to legal systems were the
responsibility of others, but the project instead set its sights on exploiting
many opportunities for ‘low level’ SDM to be implemented in services on a daily
basis.  The required revolution can also
come from the bottom-up as well as top-down!

I Decide explored
opportunities for SDM for people with learning disabilities in three distinct

  • Personal finances
  • Personal health
  • Consumer rights

Partners in Greece, Finland and Spain all piloted an I Decide package of materials in one or
more of these areas.  The process
involved an individual asking for help over making a decision and then putting
in place a time-limited agreement to enable them to choose a ‘supporter’ to
help them.  ‘Helping them’ involved the
supporter in gathering evidence about the options and explaining them to the
supported person so that s/he could make an informed decision. Observing this
whole process from a distance, but being there to help if anything goes wrong
is a third person, known to the other two (and also chosen by the person being
supported) called a facilitator.  This is
all set out in a simple but clear SDM Agreement. 


The results of the project were very encouraging,
demonstrating clearly that effective  SDM
can be achieved even within quite out-dated legal systems, if people are
prepared to be imaginative about it. Whilst the slow process of legal reform
grinds onwards, it is clear that we can make a real difference to the lives and
freedoms of many people with disabilities if only we are prepared to put the
right supportive systems in place.

I Decide has
come up with an SDM Charter for individuals and organisations to sign to
express their support for this idea.
Anyone wanting more information on I Decide or to read the Charter in
full or Easy read format should visit

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