Significant Court of Protection application backlog is revealed

A mental capacity expert has recently aired her views on social media about the backlog of applications to Court of Protection, and the huge impact it is having on families and individuals.

The effect the pandemic has had on those with impaired decision making capacity and the Court of Protection has been great. The extremely challenging job of assessing capacity and providing support and advice where face-to-face meetings were unable to take place, has hindered professionals ability to carry out such a complex critical and important job.

Only last month, Beverley Beale, Court of Protection Panel Deputy and Associate at Weightmans LLP, talked about the impact the pandemic has had on those with impaired decision making capacity and the Court of Protection.

This week, Holly Mieville-Hawkins, Senior Associate at Enable Law, who specialises in mental capacity and is a member of The Law Society, said on LinkedIn:

“General #propertyandaffairs applications to the #courtofprotection are currently taking 48 weeks to process from start to end, and #deputyship applications are taking 27.4 weeks. This is hugely significant as behind each and every application is a person or a family experiencing distress and uncertainty.

“Applications for property and affairs deputyships have also risen 51.69% over the past 6 months, compared with the previous 6 months.

“These problems are real, and impact the most vulnerable in our society. More staff are being trained, but it is clear that unless there is substantial additional investment in the Court system, these statistics will simply continue to become more worrying.

“As practitioners, we can help by ensuring that our paperwork is together and compliant with the rules. We also need to ensure that we are managing our clients’ expectations, and have an open dialogue with the Court about how we can all work together to smooth and speed up these processes.

“The next P&A Court User Group is on 24 June – let me know if you want the details of who to contact for an invite.”

Professionals swiftly reacted to Holly’s post on LinkedIn with their views.

Russell Caller, Business Management Advisor at Russell Caller Professional Services replied saying:

“Thanks Holly. I shall be “leading the line” on behalf of The PDF at the CUG meeting on 24th June. In advance I will have submitted a detailed list of where, very regrettably, the COP is seriously underperforming but I shall not be doing this is in a provocative way. I shall, as I did at the last CUG meeting, asking the Court to acknowledge its shortcomings and work with COP Practitioners and The PDF to resolve these. There is no value in the COP simply refusing to accept the current very distressing position.

“At the CUG last time the Court was a little defensive but I am hopeful as The PDF and COPPA and COPBA and SFE and all COP Practitioners express the same views the Court will engage with us and together we will obtain a much better service. In the end this is without question in the best interest of P who is currently being let down by the current court performance.”

Russell continued:

“…as a Director of the Professional Deputies Forum (PDF) I am looking to our members and others for evidence of concerns and issues about performance of the COP so I can present these to the CUG on 24 the June. In anticipation of that I will be submitting Agenda items to SJ Hilder for that CUG meeting by 10th June.

It would be great if you and or any COP practitioners could let me have as many examples/evidence of COP performance by 7th June to add to our members evidence.

“All such evidence can be submitted direct to me at [email protected] Thank you and others in advance.”

Linda Sayers, Professional Standards Manager at Anglia Case Management reacted saying:

“Frightening … the system is clearly failing and Covid is not to blame.”

Mark Stubberfiield, Head Of Department – Private Client and Notary Public at Taylor Rose MW added:

“I made an application for permission to purchase and got a standard letter back asking me to serve everyone for my application to be appointed Deputy. Helpful.

“Also had a standard letter dated 8th May telling me that the COP1 had been issued but the COP1 was stamped issued on 10th May so even a delay in writing a letter and stamping a COP1!”

John Hodgkinson, Solicitor at PIC further added:

“This is of concern especially when it impacts on those with real vulnerabilities.

“it is a sad indictment on a society that should be compassionate and make assistance accessible.”

Alison Lamont, Partner (Court of Protection) at Wards LLP commeted:

“I read the stats today but am not surprised! The Court’s workload is a product of its own judicial activism. The whole point of the new style ‘wider’ deputyship order back in 2007 was to stop the nonsense of the deputy having to go back to Court for every decision to be made. We have now regressed to a point where the standard deputyship order prevents sale of property even in cases where a person has been in a care home for 3+ years and it is blatantly obviously necessary. The deputy has no discretion to make a best interests decision to sell the property, which in many cases is the main or sole asset. Local authorities end up funding these residents until the relevant order is made – the length of time taken in these cases is ridiculous and causing not just individual financial hardship. This is not just an issue for the individual client and their family or our sector. It’s a problem for us all in England & Wales causing an unsustainable burden on public finances. We all have a social care premium on our council tax bills and it’s going to keep increasing. In my opinion the Court is overloaded because we have to keep going back for authority that was previously latent in a standard deputyship order. Oh and re ACC”

Rebecca Sparrow, Solicitor specialising in Court of Protection, Mental Capacity, Property and Affairs at Penningtons Manches LLP further commented:

“This is worrying. Considering the struggles clients and their families face on daily basis, it is so difficult to see the impact these delays have.”

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