In a case that has emphasised the importance of making one’s wishes known before illness strikes, a challenge to Westminster Council over residential care has successfully been fought on behalf of dementia campaigner and former politician Manuela Sykes.
A Labour councillor for Westminster from 1974, Manuela Sykes was a long standing campaigner for better treatment for dementia sufferers. When she was diagnosed with the illness herself, she made a Lasting Power of Attorney and set out that she wished to remain in the flat where she has lived for the past 60 years, for as long as possible.
Now 89, Ms Sykes was admitted to a nursing home in December 2012, when the local authority decided she was unable to take care of herself. But thanks to having her wishes set out in the Lasting Power of Attorney, she will now be returning home for a trial period, after the Court of Protection ruled that all viable options should be explored to satisfy her wishes.
Westminster City Council had argued that it could not afford the cost of dedicated 24-hour care for Ms Sykes, but accepted the court's decision and is working with her representatives during the trial period.
The announcement of the judgement and naming of Manuela Sykes in this case was unusual, as hearings of the Court of Protection are usually held in private, because of the vulnerability and need for anonymity of those involved.
The Court of Protection is responsible for managing the affairs of people who have become mentally incapable, but by making a Lasting Power of Attorney – known as LPAs - people can appoint someone to look after their financial or health affairs in advance, and guard against incapacity due to illness or accident.
If someone has not made an LPA and they become mentally incapable, their financial and personal affairs have to be managed by a deputy appointed by the Court of Protection. Usually the deputy is a family member, but it tends to be a slow and expensive business for most families, as relatives may be forced to get permission from the Court for each transaction that they carry out.
Examples include the wife who had to get permission to sign any cheque over £500, after an accident left her husband in a coma. The deputy is also required to produce annual accounts, and there are legal and Court fees throughout the process.
Said Lisa Carter, private client specialist at Gepp & Sons: “Putting an LPA in place when you’re fit and healthy avoids the delay and stress for relatives in having to refer to the Court of Protection later on. There is a cost involved in drawing one up, but this is far less than the cost of managing someone’s affairs as a deputy.
“Early action is important though, as an LPA is only valid if the person is capable of understanding what they are signing and its consequences.
Lisa added: “LPAs tends to be thought of as being for older people, but they can be just as important when you are younger – for example, if someone is involved in an accident which leaves them incapable of managing their affairs.”
There are two types of LPA: a Property & Financial Affairs LPA, which is used to appoint someone to look after your finances; and a Health & Welfare LPA, which is used to appoint someone to deal with issues such as where you live and medical treatment.
The LPA must then be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian, which is the administrative arm of the Court of Protection, before it can be used.
The above is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.
If you require further information please contact Lisa Carter from our Private Clients Department on 01245 228127