The Public Guardian has proposed a regime of tighter supervision for deputies appointed by the Court of Protection.
The interests and welfare of people who lack the capacity to make their own decisions through illness or disability are officially protected by the Office of the Public Guardian, and rulings are made on their behalf by the Court of Protection. When someone loses capacity – perhaps through the onset of dementia – without having previously nominated a person to take on responsibility for their affairs and estates, deputies are appointed to do so by the Court.
In a recently published review of the current system, the Public Guardian recommends a number of changes to the supervision of deputies, designed to ensure that they are acting responsibly and in the best interests of the person lacking capacity. Such changes would include annual plans, inventories of the assets under their control and estimates of any charges to be applied.
Deputies can be both lay people – most commonly members of the individual’s family – but they can also be professionals, for example solicitors. Professional deputies are often appointed when a large sum of money is involved – a typical example might be a large compensation payout following a case of medical negligence or an accident which has left the victim in need of long term care. Such professional deputies will of course charge for their time and work but there have been instances where the fees charged have been large enough to eat up a significant proportion of the assets.
The review was prompted in 2012 when MPs expressed concerns over high deputyship charges.
In the report, the Office of the Public Guardian said its workload had increased by more than 100 per cent since the introduction of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, which introduced a new legal mechanism for protecting the interests of people who lose capacity: the lasting power of attorney.
Read the full report here.