I welcome the clarity that the Minister of State intends to bring to the issue, particularly with respect to amendment No. 128. I also welcome her commitment, which I do not doubt, to have it included in the legislation that is about to be published.
I acknowledge that absolutely, but there are issues that need to be ventilated at this stage. The first point is that the European Convention on Human Rights states that "[n]o one shall be subject to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment" and that every single citizen "has the right to liberty and security of person". No one can be deprived of their liberty, except "in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law" as the European Convention on Human Rights states. They include "the lawful detention of a person after conviction of a competent court" and the lawful detention of a person who is suffering from a mental disorder, as defined under the mental health Acts. In addition, "Everyone who has been the victim of arrest or detention [...] shall have an enforceable right to compensation" and "[e]veryone has the right to respect for his privacy and family life" and "there shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law". In fact, there is no clear law for the deprivation of rights of an individual that does not fall into category 5. The Law Society has been concerned about this issue. To enjoy the rights to liberty and security of a person, nobody can be deprived of their liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily, and any deprivation of liberty must be in conformity with the law. There is a duty on us as a State that if persons with disabilities are deprived of their liberty through any process, they are, on an equal basis with others, entitled to guarantees in accordance with international human rights principles.
Again, older persons who are placed in institutional care have the right to freedom of movement. Any restrictions must be lawful, necessary and proportionate in accordance with international law. Older people, in principle, should only be placed in a residential institution or in psychiatric care with their free and informed consent. Any exception must fulfil the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights. This amendment defines deprivation of liberty and states that "[a] relevant person or any person having an interest in the well-being of a relevant person or any person who is concerned that the relevant person may be deprived of his or her liberty or where there is an interference with private and family life which is not in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights, may make a complaint to the Director of the Decision Support Service". There is a clear vehicle where somebody who is concerned and has a right to be concerned can exercise that right by referring it to a very important officer, which is at the core of this legislation and the director, on receipt of such a complaint, can investigate it immediately and, if necessary, refer it to the courts.
The Council of Europe recommends that older persons, in principle, should only be placed in residential, institutional or psychiatric care with their free and informed consent. Any exception to this principle must fulfil the requirements of the convention on human rights. There are issues, clearly, where people with an intellectual disability and people who suffer from dementia are placed in institutional care. The question of whether they are there with their consent has to be properly and fully decided with respect to the deprivation of their liberty. It is not tenable that vulnerable persons can be deprived of their liberty when there is no clear guidance as to what constitutes deprivation of liberty or any indication of the limitations or procedures. It is absolutely vital, and I accept the Minister will take steps on this, that where a relevant person has been deprived of his or her liberty or where there is interference in article 8, the legislation will relate to that. It is right and proper that the Minister of State offered consultation with the responsible officials. I am happy to withdraw this amendment on the basis of what she said, but I would like her assurance that we will have recognition of the policy issue to be addressed with those officials and any other parties outside who should be concerned.
Finally, we all come across in our work as public representatives people who suffer from dementia and whose family reach a stage where they cannot look after them anymore. We all know that and we all acknowledge it. We also acknowledge the care, love, attention, and commitment that leads whole families to exhaust all the members of those families in looking after people with dementia and people who suffer from intellectual and other disabilities. That is not always the case. It is to protect the people who may be placed in care when there are other alternatives for them. That is a very important point. I know the role of the State is not a matter for debate today but we spend hundreds of millions on the care of people under the fair deal scheme and in nursing and institutional care, and yet we do not spend one fifth of the funding we should spend on keeping those people in their homes for as long as possible. One of the key challenges facing the next Government is to make sure that people in our community who are in the area we are talking about are looked after for as long as possible in their homes. I welcome the return of the respite care grant. Supports to families and to carers to look after people in their home are absolutely essential and need to be fast-tracked. The money must be put into supporting families who are looking after their loved ones in the community. The best possible place for people to be is in their homes and in family care, but to avoid having exhausted family members and people who are on the brink of serious medical problems themselves because of the stress they face, we need much more support from the State for home help and care at home.
Another issue that needs to be addressed is the question of technology to help people stay in their homes for longer. I know the Minister of State has been to Dundalk, where she has looked at the Great Northern Haven, a place for people who are mobile and able to look after themselves but which ensures that as they get older, they will be able to stay in their homes. Technology is used to turn on the light when they get out of bed, to interrogate them in a friendly way about whether they took their pills or not that day or to know whether they have fallen on the ground. There are all sorts of other issues that need to be addressed, which are absolutely critical for the future of our society and for the care of older people in our community. When somebody is of advanced years, the last place to put them is into care. The first place must always be to keep them in their homes but it is necessary to increase significantly the State help to those families and to be generous in that. No longer do I want to be called to a house to speak to a lady who is in her late 70s and whose husband in his 80s, where she cannot look after him because he is doubly incontinent and the house is upside down because the woman is at her wits' end. She cannot look after her husband, whom she has loved and cared for all her life and he has always cared for her. It is not good enough to have a woman in that position having to face the vista of four and a half hours of home help for the week to look after her husband. It is not good enough and it is not acceptable. I hope, as things improve financially, that Members will make significant commitments. All political parties and none, whoever they are and whoever they are not, when they stand for the election in the next few months should put on the record where they stand on these issues. They are the most important basic issues of care into the future for our society as it gets older.
Finally, on the question of dementia care and the Alzheimer's Society, I find it difficult to defend situations where people who offer respite and help to people in their homes are being challenged by the budgetary situation they are in. There is significant human suffering going on. There are families bearing major burdens of care and we are not doing enough to help them.
I hope that every party, including my own, will step up to the mark on this in the next general election.
I welcome the Minister of State's commitments. Perhaps she would give the reassurance of consultation at the appropriate stage. Accordingly, I will withdraw my amendment.