The third quarter of 2019 (July-September) saw a record number of applications made under the Mental Capacity Act according to a recent update on family court statistics.
A total of 9,407 applications were made under the act during this period which made it the busiest quarter for this type of work since statistics have been made available. Of these applications 1,347 related to deprivation of liberty which was an increase of 20% on the same quarter of the previous year.
This may be due to several factors, including people becoming more aware of their rights and the role of a Court of Protection solicitor in assisting with these issues. The Court of Protection is now more accessible and more and more cases are being reported in the media. As a society, people are generally living longer. This is increasing the burden on social care resources and leading to inadequate care or placements for disabled adults, leading to disputes about a loved one, such as where they should live and what care they should be receiving.
What is deprivation of liberty?
A person may be described as having been deprived of their liberty if they are under continuous supervision by carers, are not free to leave their placement (they would be brought back if they tried to do so) and do not have the mental capacity to consent to the arrangements under which they are living. These arrangements may be enforced in a nursing or residential care home or other settings including supported living and at home. Any deprivation of an individual’s liberty, even to keep them safe, must be authorised otherwise their human rights may be being breached.
Sometimes family members do not agree that it is in the best interests of their loved one to be deprived of their liberty, or their loved one may be objecting to, or really unhappy at the care home or placement and in these instances they may be able to challenge the deprivation of liberty authorisation through the court, who can revoke or vary an existing authorisation.
The statistics also show that during this quarter 226,238 lasting powers of attorneys (LPA) were received by the courts, an increase of 12% on the number made in the same quarter of 2018.
What is a lasting power of attorney?
A LPA can help if you ever lose the mental capacity to make important decisions about your own health & welfare and property & finances. A LPA enables a person you trust to make important decisions on your behalf if you should lose your mental capacity in the future. There are two types of LPA which each deal with different things.
A property & finance LPA will allow your trusted person to make decisions for you about financial issues including decisions regarding selling your property, dealing with benefits, handling your bank accounts and paying bills on your behalf whilst you still have capacity. A health & welfare LPA will allow your trusted person to make decisions for you about where you live, whether in care or otherwise, what you can eat and even the clothes you wear when you no longer have the capacity to make these decisions for yourself.
If you do ever become incapacitated and you do not have a LPA in place you run the risk of forcing your loved ones into potentially long and distressing court battles to take control of your finances.
Our specialist Court of Protection team are experienced in dealing with all aspects of Court of Protection proceedings, including deprivation of liberty authorisations and challenges. This is an ever changing and complex area of law and so it is important that legal advice is sought at the earliest opportunity. We also have a specialist team that helps individuals who want to make a lasting power of attorney ensure that their interests are protected in the event that they no longer have mental capacity to make decisions for themselves in the future. To speak with our specialists please call us on 01616 966 229.
A full breakdown of the statistics can be found here.