The Law Society , 28 MAR 2017

Vulnerable people must have expert representation in all welfare cases

Vulnerable people must have expert representation in all welfare cases

People unable to make decisions for themselves must always have access to expert independent representation in court hearings about their welfare, the Law Society of England and Wales said last week as it launched a new mental capacity accreditation for legal representatives serving the Court of Protection.

The Law Society of England and Wales is working with the Court of Protection and The City Law School to provide training and accreditation to ensure expert legal representation is available for all mental capacity cases in which welfare matters are at stake.

'The Court of Protection makes decisions about enforced medical treatment, care, deprivation of liberty or limits on people’s movements, where they live or who they see.

We are working with the court to ensure accredited legal representatives are available to assert and defend the rights of vulnerable people when important decisions are made about their lives,' said Law Society president Robert Bourns.

'Anyone living with dementia, a learning disability or brain injury - for instance - must have their best interests protected, whether they are in a hospital, care or family home. To ensure this is done, they should have the value and reassurance of expert legal representation to protect their rights, as well as their health and general welfare.'

In an unprecedented judgment in March 2016, Mr Justice Charles, vice president of the Court of Protection, highlighted the lack of appropriate representatives available to vulnerable people coming to the court. Large numbers of such cases, concerning what are often crucial health and welfare decisions, are still pending indefinitely.

Robert Bourns added:

'The Law Society mental capacity accreditation will ensure that vulnerable people coming to the Court of Protection are represented by experts with a depth of understanding of the complexities involved in representing clients who lack mental capacity.

As our population ages and the number of people who need long-term care grows, it's essential that measures to protect people who lack mental capacity are fit for purpose.'

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