As a professional deputy who acts for individuals who lack the capacity to manage their property and affairs, this question seems to be coming up quite regularly when I meet potential new clients (who already have an existing deputy) for the first time. At these initial meetings the client and/or their family can often seem surprised when I turn things around by asking what they want to do as one of my first questions. After all, it is their money so why shouldn’t they have a say in what happens to it!
Every professional deputy is different and each will have their own style and approach to the work that we undertake, albeit within the confines of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 which provides the legal framework for what we do. In the same way, every client is unique and has a set of needs and circumstances entirely personal to them. Occasionally therefore, the mix of client and deputy simply doesn’t work in the client’s best interests.
My experience is that the client (or if they cannot speak for themselves, their family) will often ‘soldier on’ in the mistaken belief that this is just the way it is and change isn’t possible. It is not really surprising that they believe this when their deputy has been appointed through a long formal legal process and by an Order of the Court of Protection. Most will also know how long it can take to get anything agreed by the Court, and this again puts them off thinking about making a change.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way. The Court will not force you to stay with a particular deputy if it really isn’t working. Perhaps the key concept in the Mental Capacity Act is that of ‘best interests’. Why would it ever be in an individual’s best interests to remain with the same deputy if the relationship has broken down? If you had capacity and were not happy with the service provided by your solicitor you would, in all probability, just change them so why should it be any different for clients who lack capacity?
Nobody is perfect, least of all me, but I think the most basic thing your professional deputy should do is take the time to get to know you, understand in detail your wants and needs and listen to what you are saying. In my opinion, this gives you the best chance of forming a successful relationship. Of course, I cannot guarantee that I would always agree with you or agree that what you want is in your best interests, but unless I take the time to ask the right questions I will never know. Court of Protection work is often as much about people and personality as it is about legal issues and ultimately about making the lives of the people we act for better than before. If we cannot do this then perhaps a change is what is needed.