Deputyship services for local authorities

Stephensons works with local authorities in numerous legal areas including the appointment of deputies for incapacitated persons.

Stephensons are aware that local authorities have a delicate balancing act to undertake. On the one hand they need to meet their statutory obligations and provide excellent services to some of the most disadvantaged of their residents. On the other they are working within constrained budgets and are cognisant of the financial cost of becoming the second last deputy of choice, before panel deputies.

Stephensons are able to assist by taking on deputyships, where there are sufficient assets in the fund to meet needs and discharge fees. 

The local authority can be confident that a referral to Stephensons to take on a deputyship is a safe and appropriate option for them.

 

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Stephensons' Trust Company

Stephensons operates its deputyship services through a trust company, Stephensons Trust Corporation. We were one of the first solicitor firms in the country to set up a trust company and it has been appointed as a deputy now on numerous occasions by the Court of Protection. Indeed as one of the first firms to make applications we assisted the Court of Protection to draft the appropriate practice directions in relation to the appointment of trust companies as part of an early group application.

Local authorities and the Court of Protection have the security of knowing that the trust company, unlike an individual deputy, will not die, become ill or change jobs. It therefore provides a higher level of consistency and longevity than an individual personal appointment.

The actual legal work is still carried out by the competent and experienced lawyers at Stephensons who work on behalf of the Trust Corporation. The Trust Corporation directors are partners and experienced Court of Protection practitioners at Stephensons. It is important for a local authority to know that as solicitors the Trust Corporation directors are all regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and of course bound by the codes of conduct that apply.

The directors and the Trust Corporation are covered by Stephenson’s professional indemnity policy and the usual security bonds apply, giving full protection to the incapacitated person and their funds.

Our experience

Stephensons are an appointed interventions agent for the Solicitors Regulatory Authority and the Council for the License Conveyancers and we frequently undertake interventions for those regulators.  In order to secure those contracts Stephensons succeeded in a rigorous tendering process. This should reassure local authorities that Stephensons are not only trusted by regulators, but also very familiar with the codes of conduct and processes that govern solicitor’s activities.

Stephensons provides numerous legal services to public authorities and has the fully documented policies necessary to undertake that work including on bribery, modern slavery, apprenticeships, GDPR, etc. We have also been appointed to the Crown Suppliers framework which again means that our compliance with the necessary legal and other obligations required to undertake work for public bodies has been tested and met. We are, in that regard, a “safe pair of hands” for public bodies with all of the appropriate safeguards in place.

We have invested very heavily in IT and our able to provide reports or management information as appropriate. 

Stephensons adhere to the OPG professional deputy standards which are used as guidance and a touchstone in their activities in these areas. The firm and its Trust Corporation have comfortably passed the standard supervision visits by the OPG.

Our work in the community

Rather more importantly than all of the above we have a commitment to improving lives. We see our deputyship services as a key aspect of our culture of using legal services to help people. We have won awards for our work in communities and with the disadvantaged.

We participate in community based activities with our client group such as Singing with Dementia. A number of our senior lawyers are on the boards and trusts of social purpose organisations and therefore have a good insight into their needs and those of their clients. 

Deputyship costs

We note that when local authorities take on the deputyship they are limited to fixed costs which imposes further burdens on the public purse. Stephenson’s approach to deputyship costs is that we will generally ask for them to be assessed by the court. We have our own internal costings department which also provides cost services to various government departments. This means that we can efficiently have bills drawn up which present a fair claim to the court and then of course the court will excise its supervisory functions to ensure that all charging is fair and proper. Utilising this process means that we can obtain the necessary level of of fees to provide an excellent service to P but there can be no criticism of our changing methods and funds are appropriately protected.

We like to work in a co-operative way with local authorities. We recognise that officers time is precious and do not seek to trouble them unless necessary. However, where appropriate we are always keen to engage in the joint solving of problems, sharing of best practice and training.

The advice provided to non face to face clients will be through electronic communication only i.e. by telephone and email. Stephensons Solicitors LLP assumes no responsibility for, and shall not be liable for, (a) verification of mental capacity or testamentary capacity (b) verification of any undue influence or duress involved (c) the execution of any documents.

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