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A guide to the Court of Protection for social workers and other professionals

A forthcoming event aims to provide social workers with a clear and precise explanation as to what the Court of Protection is, what powers it has and when it should be considered as relevant to service users within individual local authorities, so that they may better understand the solutions available to them.

25/09/23

A guide to the Court of Protection for social workers and other professionals

The Court of Protection is often thought of as a secret court, because it works within a framework of privacy for the individual, and because few people think about it before they need to use it, according to a specialist solicitor.

Speaking before her seminar at the Social Work Show in Manchester next week, Jenny Roberts, Operations and Compliance Director at Hugh Jones Solicitors, told Social Work Today that there is often confusion about the powers the Court of Protection gives to a Property and Affairs Deputy.

A Property and Affairs Deputy is a solicitor appointed by the Court under the Mental Capacity Act, to act for a person who cannot look after their own affairs. Professional deputies step in when there is no family member able to take on the role. They take on the legal, financial and administrative work for a person who, the court rules, does not have the mental capacity to do so themselves.

The work generally also includes such matters as
 managing bank accounts
 tax
 wills, including administering and writing
 funding reviews or disputes
 buying or selling a house
 commissioning home adaptations
 continuing treatment decisions (including Judicial Review)
 Court of Protection mediation for welfare and property/financial issues
 investment of compensation awards, in conjunction with specialist investment advisers
 Enduring Power of Attorney

Professional deputies can also appoint support workers, issue and agree contracts, authorise DBS checks, manage payroll, staff training and resolve employment disputes.

However, a court-appointed professional is not the only option: ‘It’s important to remember that social workers don’t necessarily need to ask the court to make the appointment; they can approach a deputy directly to act in that capacity,’ Ms Roberts said.

Generally, ‘social workers are very alert to the issues relating to capacity but might need guidance about the process of applying for a deputyship, and the powers which are available to a deputy to assist the individual.’

She added that the Court of Protection ‘will always opt for the least restrictive option. For example, it can authorise access to a bank account to clear a debt before transferring the balance to an appointee to manage, outside of a deputyship, if it is sufficiently small – say, less than £10,000. It’s possible for the Court of Protection to make one-off orders, rather than a deputyship order.

‘The Mental Capacity Act requires deputies to liaise with family members, where appropriate, which helps when looking at the client’s best interests. There are times when it is appropriate for family members themselves to act as deputy, or act alongside a professional.’

However, ‘there might be circumstances where it isn’t appropriate to speak to family members about decisions to be taken and this is a matter for the deputy to judge.

‘Social workers often need help in knowing what action to take if they suspect someone is being abused, either physically, financially or otherwise, where large sums of money are involved, or where there are issues with a will.’

Find out more about the Court of Protection at the Social Work Show in Manchester on Monday 2nd
October. In two legal seminars, Hugh Jones Solicitors will outline a deputy’s responsibilities towards the client’s finances, how those powers can be used to assist in the provision of care and support for a client/service user, and the limitations of those powers.

You can register for a free ticket to The Social Work Show in Manchester on 2 October to find out more: www.thesocialworkshow.co.uk

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