From ‘me’ to ‘team’ in 18 months!

Posted on: September 15th, 2014 by Jess Flanagan

Everyone I speak to in our world thought they might have a quieter summer. But in an area of law that was already gaining momentum, and the inevitable increase in workload for Adult Social Care following the Supreme Court decision of Cheshire West (see previous posts for more info), a quiet summer is not what we got! I am glad my holiday isn’t until November, because I simply don’t think I could have stopped for one this summer!

See this article on Community Care’s online magazine for a round up of what different roles within the ‘industry’ are tackling at the moment, with some comments from me.

There was some concern shared on twitter about the disparity of focus on the person in the comments made by those in public services, by comparison to what was said by the IMCA (Independent Mental Capacity Advocate), the carers and me. This further piece shows that there really are some awesome MCA leads out there and these people should be encouraged to share their best practice further afield.

I particularly like this comment : ‘I passionately believe that one of the biggest boons of a Dols authorisation is the right to support from an IMCA.’

I have always had a HUGE soft spot for advocates and believe that everyone who has to face the consequences of a Local Authority decision, however person centred, supportive and positive it may be should benefit from one. Ian is right in saying that one happy result of Cheshire West is to increase the amount of people with a statutory right to an IMCA.

In the South West we have established a small working group of advocates, private practice lawyers and local authority lawyers with a focus on sharing experiences, difficulties and ideas in P being involved in court proceedings about him or her, with a view to creating a model for accessing litigation friends (be it the Official Solicitor or IMCAs) and lawyers in a more streamlined manner. It means I get to hear a lot more about what is happening on the ground, which is one of my favourite topics!

I think I’m right in saying that the impact of ‘Cheshire West’ still hasn’t been keenly felt by us lawyers in private practice, other than to increase the amount t we read, provide training and share information where possible. We were all pretty busy already moving into year 7 of the life of the MCA. But for Local Authority lawyers, I know that their advice has been very much sought after by their Adult Services departments as they work out how best to approach the increase in DoLS authorisations and the large amount of applications that will be required for court authorised deprivations of liberty.

So, I’m under no illusion that the onslaught is coming. From speaking to my peers, we would all be very keen for the patient about whom an application in The Court of Protection is all about (‘P’) to be involved in any proceedings and as a lawyer who thrives on acting for P I’m hoping to get even busier, because it will mean that P will have a legal voice. As such I was glad to hear that an appeal to Sir James’ decision that P need not be joined as a party to DOL applications. Watch this space.

So, how am I going to deal with the extra work? Well, I have a great team forming around me. With Joanna Burton joining me in Southampton in February it quickly became clear that we needed extra support. That support has come in the form of a very talented young paralegal who has come to support us and to help us develop and increase the amount of people we can help. It’s very exciting.

I was also really pleased to see Clarke Willmott amongst a set of amazing organisations and law firms that provide advice for persons with disabilities and special educational needs. Thanks to my social media friend (who I owe some comments about the #LBBill – it’s coming, honest) Steve Broach for including us. With a larger team, our Community Care Contract with the Legal Aid Agency, we are prepared for whatever comes to us.

On a final note, I am personally really looking forward to our first Mental Capacity Act conference all about empowerment and promotion of autonomy for those who may lack capacity, held in our Bristol office on 17 October 2014. The invite has been circulated to our lists, and we have 45 people booked on already. If you are interested, please visit our website for further information and to get yourself an invite.

Comments are closed.