How NOT to behave as a professional Deputy!
The conduct of this professional deputy is rather mystifying. The Official Solicitor made a number of recommendations that were in Mrs P’s best interests. These involved her being able to see her beloved dog, Bobby, being able to buy gluten free food which she needed and being able to have nice clothes and have her hair and nails done. Mrs P’s wishes and feelings before her second stroke were very clear. She was devoted to Bobby, who the social worker described as “of single most importance in her life”. Mrs P liked to be made to feel glamorous but was now wearing ill fitting clothes. As far as we can see from the Judgment, the deputy ignored these recommendations and was particularly blunt on the matter of Bobby.
The Court was also of course concerned that the firm had been asked to investigate Mrs P’s assets and that funds in Mrs P’s Nat West account seemed to have disappeared.
It was not surprising that the Court removed the deputy and appointed a panel deputy in their place.
This decision shows that the Court is interested in more than the financial mechanics of dealing with somebody’s affairs and we as practitioners should always treat our clients as people and individual people at that. Personally I find the individual interests of clients fascinating and it is hugely rewarding to work with a number of different people and see the difference that these things can make.
In this case a solicitor had applied to act as Mrs P’s deputy on the basis that she was a long standing client and they held her Will. Mrs P had challenging behaviour and a number of recommendations were made by the health and social care authorities and the Official Solicitor about ways in which her quality of life could be improved. Mrs P’s dog, Bobby, was of particular importance to her.
The solicitor was appointed with authority to investigate Mrs P’s assets and had authority to limit withdrawals and freeze dealings on accounts if necessary. The Court was not happy with the initial documents submitted by the deputy but the deputyship was eventually confirmed in March 2016.
The deputy was aware of the problems that Mrs P had and held the purse strings to enable these things to be sorted out. The deputy was asked for £500 for new clothes, funding for more varied gluten free food and it was requested that the dog was brought to Mrs P. The solicitors did not respond, nor did they provide these things. The deputy was asked to attend Court. The Official Solicitor wrote to the deputy to explain to him what his duties were and what he should be doing.
A member of the deputy’s team had attended Mrs P and the attendance note caused “very real concern”. It stated “[Mrs P] has no money, the bank account is empty, the credit card is in the red, the only asset is her house, and unable to trace pension”.
This was a number of months after the solicitors had been given investigative powers. The same note also said that it was “unrealistic to expect the lady to bring the dog to [the Nursing Home]”.
That member of the team said they had spoken to the Court of Protection about the involvement of Caroline Hurst from Switalskis and had been told that she had no legal standing. In fact she was acting on behalf of the Official Solicitor on the care matters.
The solicitor, Mr Cryne, did not believe he needed to attend Court and said that he had taken advice from the Office of the Public Guardian that the deputy’s duties should not be intruded upon by demands from unrelated parties. The deputy felt they had complied with the Deputyship Order. They also felt it was “irresponsible in the extreme” to suggest that Bobby visited Mrs P. At this point Switalskis applied to remove the deputy.
The Court found a delay by the solicitor in establishing Mrs P’s financial position “inexplicable”. “In fact, it is entirely unclear on what basis they consider the steps they have taken to be in her best interests. Their sole focus should and can only be on Mrs P, yet they appear to be working against the Litigation Friend and not with them”. The Court also made it clear how important Bobby was to Mrs P and pointed out that the social worker had recommended that she had contact with Bobby. The comments of the solicitors on the subject of Bobby were described as “brutal and insensitive”.
Not surprisingly, the Court decided that the deputy was not acting in Mrs P’s best interests. The deputy was replaced by a panel deputy.
In this case, the Judge was actually conducting a final hearing in relation to welfare matters, specifically Mrs P’s deprivation of liberty and her care arrangements. However, the Court felt that these matters were inextricably linked with the death of the financial deputy.