The Court of Protection oversees a range of issues about mental capacity, such as:
- making decisions on whether someone has mental capacity
- handling best interests’ disputes
- ruling on questions about deprivation of liberty
The court is also responsible for appointing deputies to make relevant decisions for people who lack mental capacity, and who have not, prior to the point at which they lost mental capacity to do so, made a lasting power of attorney (LPA) [hyperlink].
Deputies are accountable to the court, and OPG has a legal duty to supervise them.
Types of court-appointed deputy
There are two types of deputies for different types of decision:
- property and financial affairs deputy
- personal welfare deputy
Any adult with mental capacity (over 18) can be a deputy, and can approach the court to apply for the role. The court would typically look to family members in the first instance.
There are four different categories of deputies that may be appointed by the Court of Protection:
- lay deputies – friends and family of the person who lacks mental capacity
- professional deputies – individuals who are paid for their role as deputy (for example, accountants or solicitors)
- public authority deputies – when the court appoints a local authority or health body as the deputy
- panel deputies –a deputy appointed by the court when there is no one else suitable to take on the role. The panel deputy is chosen from OPG’s list of approved panel deputies
The roles and responsibilities of a court-appointed deputy
A deputy often has a similar role to an attorney. They must follow the Code of Practice of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA), and work in the best interests of the person. Deputies must send an annual deputy report to the Office of the Public Guardian about the decisions they’ve made and plan to make.
An annual deputy report will differ depending on the type of deputy. A report by a property and financial affairs deputy will include details on financial decisions made on behalf of the person, while a personal welfare deputy report will include significant personal welfare decisions. Both reports will ask how the deputy has involved the person (if possible), and other relevant people, in decision-making. Deputies must also note down any significant decisions they expect to make on behalf of the person in the next year, and how often they, and other people, have contact with the person. Professional and public authority deputies for property and financial affairs must account for their fees.
The court will say what the deputy can and cannot decide on, and the deputy must not overstep that authority. Again, as with an LPA, if a deputy is acting outside of their powers, or is not acting in the best interests of the person concerned, the issue should be referred to OPG for investigation.
More information about deputies can be found on the GOV.UK website.