Protective care for vulnerable adults: role of the Court of Protection
Meeting needs begins with understanding needs. If a carer for a young vulnerable adult cannot understand their needs, there is a real risk that the adult’s quality of life will be unacceptably low. This seems to cause the Court of Protection real concern. A recent example was the decision in A Local Authority v WMA (July 2013), a local authority was allowed to remove a young vulnerable adult from the care of a mother who could do no more than meet the most basic of needs.
A young man with autism lived with his mother. She seemed incapable of providing sanitary living conditions. Over a long period, the home had been squalid and the young man’s mother had neglected his personal hygiene, leaving him unwashed and wearing dirty clothes. She had also done very little to help the young man achieve his potential. The mother had not co-operated with many local authority attempts to improve the young man’s quality of life and he remained socially isolated. Despite all that, the young man said he did not want to live with anyone other than his mother.
The young man’s local authority thought it was in his best interests to live apart from his mother in a supported residential unit. The authority applied to the Court of Protection for orders authorising them to remove the young man from his mother’s care and, if need be, deprive him of his liberty at the unit to stop him being taken away.
Why did the Court authorise removal of the young man from his mother’s care?
Having heard evidence from a consultant psychiatrist that the young man had an IQ of 64 and could not see the consequences of his decisions, the Court of Protection concluded that he lacked the mental capacity to make decisions about where to live and who to see. He could not use or weigh the information relevant to those decisions.
The Court then looked at whether it would be in the young man’s best interests to live away from his mother in a specialist residential unit. It decided that it would. Basic sustenance and shelter was all the mother had provided. The family home was unsanitary despite repeated offers of help from the local authority and nothing meaningful had been done to help the young man realise his potential. As a result, it was in the young man’s best interests to be separated from his mother.
Is there an underlying theme?
Every Court of Protection case turns on its own facts. However, it is always concerned where young adults with learning disabilities have family carers without the skills necessary for them to realise their potential and lead a more fulfilling life. Where these family carers persistently refuse to take advantage of the help offered by statutory services, the Court of Protection appears ready to intervene and forcibly create a better caring environment.
Ed Mitchell is a solicitor and general editor of the Journal of Community Care Law