It is the implementation of the law, not the law itself, which is holding back progress

One of the key aspects about the law, both domestically and internationally, is that the law has to be clear and enforceable.

We can see this ‘in action’ where most of the criticisms of the National Minimum Wage have not been the way it’s been drafted, but the way it’s been implemented.

There can, of course, be ‘bad law’. Arguably, the freedom of information should contain a ‘carve out’ where public interest overrides commercial gain say for outsourced NHS providers (where surplus generation might trump safe staffing).

And so it goes on.

A lot of effort has been put into an instrument called the United Nations Convention on Rights of People with Disabilities. Under the guidance to the Equality Act, dementia is clearly a disability. Framing dementia as a disability totally alters the nature of the narrative, where the emphasis shifts from ‘friendliness’ to legal rights of people with dementia.

That rights are universal and inalienable means that it is not legally possible internationally to discriminate against somebody on the grounds of mental capacity, or to breach fundamental human rights in a disproportionate way.

Prof Peter Mittler is a very modest man, quite remarkable given his groundbreaking achievements. He has had a glittering career as a leader in putting disability on the political agenda. One of his recent speeches will give you a flavour of his work.

Mittler in fact habitually resides in Manchester. #DevoManc won’t have escaped your notice. Manchester, in particular the local areas such as Salford, has been at the forefront of living better with dementia, not least due to the massive successful work of Hazel Blears. Blears’ work has been second to none as a parliamentarian in promoting dementia in English policy.

But here Mittler makes a fundamental point which should concern us all. That instruments such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities have been known about for some time. In our jurisdiction, the governing party is about to replace the Human Rights Act with another framework, a Bill of Rights. Currently it is unclear whether the UK will remain signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights, but most legal scholars expect us to be not least because of the legal mess in devolution agreements if we left. We are, notwithstanding, signed up to the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights.

The ‘rub’ comes into the enforceability of these rights, and for people at large to take these rights seriously. I personally notice a massive sea-change on the ground, in terms of the embedding of a ‘rights based consciousness’. Clicking on the link below will take you to Prof Peter Mittler’s question at the end of Dr Dennis Gillings’ progress report for the Alzheimer’s Society annual conference (#Dementia2015). Jeremy Hughes, CEO of the Alzheimer’s Society, brings up the correct point about the “rulebook”. Kate Swaffer, as Co-Chair of Dementia Alliance International, a group consisting of and campaigning on behalf of people living with dementia, is praised in Mittler’s comment.

Link to Audioboom recording