The role of a Professional Deputy & Attorney
Gill Browne, Professional Deputy/Attorney & Associate - mfg Solicitors
From sorting out complex matters such as tax returns and investment portfolio decisions, to organising something as simple as day trips out or the ordering of essential items, the role of a professional Deputy and Attorney is vital and varied.
People are often surprised that my job exists, let alone the types of things I have to handle for my clients.
I have been a professional Deputy and Attorney for over 14 years. The first that most people will hear about my role is usually when they have a loved one for whom someone needs to be authorised to make financial arrangements on their behalf. This is when either a Power of Attorney or Deputyship Order is arranged.
If the person has mental capacity, a Lasting Power of Attorney for Property and Affairs can be made. If not, then a Deputyship Order will be needed. The role of Attorney or Deputy can be fulfilled by a lay person, such as a family member or friend, but if there is no one suitable or able, the Court can appoint a professional, such as myself.
A lack of mental capacity can be due to learning difficulties, through illness or perhaps having suffered a brain injury, such as following an accident.
More than one person can be appointed as Attorney or Deputy and they could potentially work jointly or independently. This works well when all of the appointed people agree with what is best for the person concerned, but sometimes there are disputes. If this happens amongst lay Deputies or Attorneys, then occasionally the only way forward is for an independent person to be appointed.
I have numerous clients for whom I act. This role can be very varied and in a typical week I will be handling collection of their DWP benefits, retirement pensions (if applicable) or maybe investment income. I may need to make payments out such as care home fees, or household and domestic bills for those people who still live in their own home with support. I may even need to buy or sell property.
If clients still own their property, my role can involve arranging annual gas and electric inspections, dealing with general household issues, utility bills, applying for planning permission for extensions, or even organising landscape gardeners.
I will organise someone’s budget to provide for anything that is necessary for those particular individuals. Everyone’s budget is different according to their needs. In some cases this may be a budget for clothing purchases, household improvements, maintenance, trips out and holidays.
Sometimes I need to employ professional visitors for people living in their own home, to prevent them from feeling isolated, and even sometimes for people who are in residential care. For example, one of my clients who has moved into residential care really enjoys fishing. We have therefore arranged for an independent company to support him for a weekly fishing trip. Another lady loves dancing and therefore we arranged for the provision of extra carers to accompany her with appropriate transport, so she can attend a Disney on Ice production.
One of my clients loves to go away on weekend and short term breaks and my role involves liaising with the care team and making sure there is sufficient staffing to be able to support them in that break, as well as finding suitable breaks for them to attend.
We try to encourage our clients to still have the fullness of life wherever possible, whether in their own home or in residential care. We visit them in their home situation to chat through their wishes and how to achieve them.
I meet with multi-disciplinary teams to discuss care packages for people in their own homes or in residential care and liaise with social workers, health officials, advocates and anybody else required in order to ensure that the person’s best interests are met. I also need to liaise with the Office of the Public Guardian, social work teams and the local authority.
Where there is a large portfolio of money to be invested, I have regular contact with the financial advisors and will deal with investment paperwork and tax returns as required.
The important thing about professional Deputies and Attorneys is that whoever approaches us to become involved, it is the individual for whom we work. I am there to make sure that their financial affairs and property are managed properly in a way that works in their best interests.
When the costs of care aren’t fair, we’re on your side
mfg associate Gill Browne recalls how she successfully challenged charges faced by elderly care home residents.
Deciding to entrust our elderly parents to the care system is as heart-wrenching as it is costly.
We want the best for them but we also know that in many cases that is going to mean the home they have lived in, and paid for, is going to have to be sold.
That can be complicated at the best of times and even more so when the local authority in charge of social services starts demanding a higher than expected fee for that care.
When I was approached by a local authority to become Court of Protection Deputy for one of their care home residents, it involved taking on a sale of her property. It was a tricky but not uncommon matter.
There were various issues surrounding the estate of the late husband of this care home resident, as his estate had not been administered. The resident had dementia, so I needed to act as her deputy to administer her finances and also deal with his estate. I first of all arranged to purchase the leasehold of the property in the estate, thus making it worth more upon sale and providing her with the money needed to cover the cost of her care.
So far, so good.
Then came the bill from the local authority. They were charging my client over £700 a week for a place in one of their own council run homes. And as she’d already been there several years, the retrospective demand was for over £100,000!
If she had been in a private care home instead, the cost to the council for her care would have been £418 a week. If I did not agree to pay, the council was going to move her somewhere cheaper.
This seemed cruel to me. This woman had lived in that home for a while and was settled and moving someone who suffers from Dementia is particularly unhelpful.
I paid some of the arrears but continued to lobby the council about the unfairness of placing my client in one of their homes and charging whatever they liked, with no way for her to appeal.
The council eventually backed down and acknowledged it should have given my client more choice.
It might have been the council that referred the matter to me in the first place, but it was the resident who was my client. I was determined not to let her end up paying more than was fair.
The saving I achieved for this lady was in the region of £70,000.