Court of protection deputies favoured from not-for-profit sector


Every year the court of protection appoints deputies to assist people who lack mental capacity and have no legal advisors to manage their affairs.

Such deputyship usually involves a property and affairs manager, whose remit is routine finances like investments, bank accounts, state benefits and tax affairs.

Court of Protection - Deputyships

Of the 11,944 deputies appointed in 2010, only 424 were concerned with health and welfare, the other main strand of deputyship.

Although deputies acting for those who need them are normally family members or friends, not everyone is willing or able to take on such responsibilities. In these cases, a panel of professionals will be considered by the court of protection and a suitable deputy will be asked to help.

Participants are almost always solicitors, with panel membership periodic – the last review was in September 2010. On conducting its most recent, the Office of the Public Guardians (OPG) decided to seek applications from the not-for-profit sector.

Daily financial management can be time-consuming, even though the affairs of people who need professional deputies are rarely complex. With rising deputies' costs causing many families to complain of disproportionate fees, the OPG is continuing to seek an alternative from the not-for-profit sector, despite a low early uptake.

It is acknowledged that such bodies have ready skills for this type of work. Another major advantage is that of reduced costs; not-for-profit organisations normally charge their services at the relatively low hourly rate of £70.

People's circumstances clearly differ. If charities and other not-for-profit organisations sign up to act as deputies, organisations that best suit individual needs will be chosen by the court of protection.

Of course, there will always be cases where solicitors' skills are more appropriate than not-for-profit organisations. For example, if the person requiring assistance has suffered a serious injury, litigation and a personal injury compensation trust might be needed as well as routine management of that person's affairs.

The Public Guardian, Martin John, said the not-for-profit sector had a key part to play in creating a diverse pool of deputyship. "Charities and other third sector organisations… bring with them a unique perspective based on many years working closely with users and a deep understanding of the issues that they face."

The call for evidence closed on 27 October 2011, with the OPG's recommendations awaited with interest.

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