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The Essex Autonomy Project

Award Information

AHRC ref: AH/H001301/1, AH/L01484X/1 and AH/N003128/1
Discipline: Philosophy
Funding opportunity: Research Grant
Areas of Impact: Health and Wellbeing; Policy Influence; Stimulating Debate and Shifting Perceptions; Supporting Education
Lead RO: University of Essex
Region: South East

The Essex Autonomy Project (EAP) has become an international leader in the investigation of conceptual, legal and clinical issues concerning respect for autonomy in the context of care-relationships. EAP research has shaped policy and practice in health and social care, and will inform the UK government’s preparation for a human rights review by the United Nations.

With the support of multiple AHRC awards the EAP, based at the University of Essex and led by Professors Wayne Martin and Fabian Freyenhagen, has conducted philosophical, legal and clinical research into the nature of self-determination and decision-making in medical and social-care settings. The work of the EAP is fundamentally multi-disciplinary, involving not only academic experts but also practitioners, policy makers and activists in the broader community.

In addition to peer-reviewed academic outputs, the EAP has produced green-paper technical reports, expert guidance for policy makers, frontline-practitioner training, and research in support of government bodies.

Professor Wayne Martin leads a workshop with health and social care practitioners Credit: University of Essex.

In 2014 the team provided technical research support to the UK Ministry of Justice (MoJ) in considering the contested issue of whether the Mental Capacity Act 2005 complies with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This work for MoJ involved closed-door public-policy roundtables with government officials, senior judicial figures, and representatives of national DPOs (Disabled Persons Organisations).

The resulting EAP report has been widely circulated among policy-makers, and has led to invitations to work with international delegates from China, Japan, Canada, Spain and Norway. The EAP team contributed to the development of new legislation in Ireland and Northern Ireland, and key EAP research findings have been publically endorsed by the Senior Judge of the Court of Protection.

Thanks to the success of the EAP’s research on the Mental Capacity Act, the team are working with high-level government and judicial figures to extend their analysis to related legislation in Northern Ireland and Scotland. The results of this latest phase of the project, together with the EAP report for MoJ, will inform the UK government in its preparation for a forthcoming review of the UK by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

For more information on the project visit: Essex Autonomy Project

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