Court of Protection: time for change
Russell Caller considers steps the Court of Protection could take to improve outcomes for society's most vulnerable
Notwithstanding the pandemic, law firms up and down the land have managed to find a modus operandi that has not only adapted to the ‘new world’ but that has also allowed them to flourish and improve services.
COP confidence crisis
However, the Court of Protection (COP) has struggled to adapt in the same way. The effect is that, in recent times, there has been an apparent loss of confidence in the COP by ‘P’ (the name used for the vulnerable person who does not have mental capacity), families of P and the professional deputies who work to protect P.
Members of the Professional Deputies Forum (PDF) and other COP users have been known to assert views that their COP experiences have not been entirely positive (although positive experiences have been had). There have been issues with matters such as timescales, lost applications, staffing levels, customer service standards, a lack of transparency and useful updates, fundamental mistakes or unworkable orders.
The court is certainly trying its best, but it is arguably not always achieving what is necessary in order to promote the best interests of P.
Take, for example, the recent landmark case of ACC and Others  EWCOP 9. While this was an attempt to improve life for P with increased transparency and more stringent procedures in certain circumstances, it unfortunately missed the mark.
The result of this judgment was a series of unintended consequences, including time delays, increased management costs, extra fees, additional stress and anxiety to P and their loved ones and in some cases added strain to certain relationships, particularly between P and their deputy, if the latter is blamed for some of the issues described.
However, to its credit, the COP has acknowledged there are improvements to be made and it does seem to be intent on some joined up thinking with the PDF and other professional organisations, so we can together get to the heart of these issues and introduce improvements to secure better outcomes.
To that end, the COP has a Court Users Group (CUG) and it has just increased its number of meetings to include some dedicated property and affairs (P&A) events, so there can be increased collaboration and information sharing on separate issues pertaining to health and welfare and P&A matters.
To assist the next P&A CUG meeting, we have prepared a detailed questionnaire that we have shared with members, asking for specific feedback across a variety of P&A issues, so the responses can be collated and summarised.
We intend to share this with the court so a detailed discussion can be had in relation to improved processes, reliable and transparent reporting (perhaps with the use of agreed KPIs) and more successful outcomes for P (the most important part).
Looking to the future
We aim to publish updates following the CUG meeting and as matters progress over time. This is only the beginning; we expect more and intend to keep the COP and the consequences of its actions under ongoing review.
As a profession, we (including the COP) owe a duty of care to P, the most vulnerable member of our society, and we can only hope to deliver that duty by striving to be the best we can be.
Russell Caller is director of the Professional Deputies Forum and a solicitor professional deputy deputiesforum.co.uk