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MP calls for overhaul of deputy system

A Liberal Democrat MP has demanded a shake-up of the court-appointed deputies system after claiming one of his constituents has been left nearly “penniless” by the actions of his deputy.

8 November 2012

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Duncan Hames, MP for Chippenham in Wiltshire and parliamentary aide to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, says that ‘Mr Able’, who suffered head injuries in a car crash 13 years ago, has paid out a third of his compensation in fees to solicitors appointed as his deputy, according to a report on the BBC.

“A vulnerable man has been left more or less penniless by the inaction of those meant to protect him and the regulatory reaction has been tacit indifference,” Hames told MPs in Westminster Hall at the end of October.

“Over a third of the personal capital Mr Able possessed at the time control of his finances passed to the court-appointed deputy solicitors was subsequently paid to those solicitors, as fees for the job of controlling his expenditure, and yet they did not even ensure he received appropriate benefits when he was unemployed,” he added.

Hames said that he had “exhausted every available regulatory channel” in an attempt to get justice for ‘Mr Able’, including the Office of the Public Guardian, the body which oversees deputies, and which had concluded there were no failings in the way his case had been handled.

He has also approached Justice Minister Helen Grant, who has said she will take on board his concerns.

Grant explained that the government was taking steps to improve the system and that Public Guardian Alan Eccles had launched a “fundamental review of the way supervision of deputies is currently carried out”.

The Conservative minister said the aim was to “ensure proper safeguards are in place to protect people who lack capacity and to ensure decisions are made in their best interests”.

More attention would be focused on cases “that require most support or where there are potential concerns,” Grant added, with deputies who are “operating effectively” allowed to do their job with “minimal intervention”, said the BBC’s report.

There would be more support for new deputies, and more supervision for “lay people acting on behalf of the family”, compared to legal professionals, public authorities and other “professionals”.

Grant also said that there is likely to be a growing number of deputies in the future, as the population ages and it was important to encourage people to “plan for the future by making lasting powers of attorney, to avoid the need... for a deputy to be appointed at all.”

Deputies are appointed by the Court of Protection, which was set up by the 2005 Mental Capacity Act, to protect the financial interests of mentally incapable people.

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