Published: 11 February 2015
A new report by a team of Cardiff University researches has revealed that Court of Protection welfare cases and their rising costs are a 'matter of serious concern' for the finances of local authorities and that they require 'urgent investigation'.
The judges within the Court of Protection have the responsibility for deciding if an individual has the mental capacity to protect their best interests in court matters such as welfare and care proceedings and what decisions should be made if the individual isn't deemed as being able to make their own decisions during proceedings.
The Court of Protection typically deals with issues such as deprivation of liberty, objections to a lasting power of attorney, amending existing deputy orders and personal welfare cases.
The study, entitled the 'Use of the Court of Protection's welfare jurisdiction by supervisory bodies in England and Wales' highlighted that cases could cost the taxpayer up to £250,000 per case, with half of all cases in 2013/2014 estimated to cost at least £8,150 or more, with the money spent on local authority legal staff and £3,198 or more on fees for legal counsel.
It also revealed a large variation in the way local authorities are used in the Court of Protection, with 81% of local authorities in England reporting at least one welfare case, with the average being three per local authority. This compares with 56% of local authorities in Wales reporting at least one case, with the average being only one case per authority in Wales.
In England, 4% of local authorities were involved in 10 or more cases, however in Wales, no local authority were involved in more than three cases.
The researches were shocked by the significantly lower rates of use of the Court of Protection in Wales than in England and had no logical explanation for the vast difference in statistics and have called for those responsible to investigate the implementation of the Mental Capacity Act to explore the reasons for the significant differences.
The report said, "Variations in the number of cases between local authorities could not be explained by population size alone, and neither could lower patters of use of the court in Wales."
In regards to the length of proceedings, the report highlighted that half of all completed cases lasted 9 months or longer and half of all ongoing cases have lasted at least 12 months, if not longer.
"Some cases had lasted as long as seven years; these are likely to be situations where a person is deprived of their liberty but its continuation must be regularly authorised by a court because it is in a setting where the DoLS administrative procedures do not apply," the report said.
"The high cost of Court of Protection (CoP) proceedings is a matter of serious concern and the underlying reasons for the high cost and lengthy duration of CoP proceedings require urgent investigation."
Other key findings in the report include; the number of applications by the relevant person or an advocate were rare, with 75% of applications to the court made by local authorities, however where the relevant person was subject to deprivation of liberty, the applications were more common.
Lead Author of the report, Dr Lucy Series said, "Our findings suggest that unless the CoP and local authorities radically change the conduct of welfare cases there could be devastating consequences for their resources."
The full research document from the team at Cardiff University can be viewed online here.
K J Smith Solicitors have an experienced team of family solicitors who have dealt with a number of issues regarding deputyship applications - if someone no longer has the mental capacity to enter into a lasting power of attorney. For more information or to arrange a free consultation, contact us today on 01491 630000 (Henley-on-Thames), 020 7070 0330 (Central London), 0118 418 1000 (Reading), 01753 325000 (Windsor) or 01256 584000 (Basingstoke).