When someone is living with dementia, it becomes harder for them to make important decisions in later stages of the disease. As such, deputyship exists to allow someone else to make decisions on behalf of the person with dementia. It’s the approach used when the person with dementia has not previously appointed someone to have power of attorney.
There are different forms of deputyship including personal welfare deputyship and financial and affairs deputyship.
It is possible to apply for deputyship in an emergency, for example if there is immediate risk to the person with dementia and a decision needs to be made about medical care. It is also possible to apply for urgent ‘interim’ orders, for example if there are outstanding care home fees that need to be paid. For an interim order, you must already have begun applying for deputyship. Evidence of the need will be required.
Becoming a deputy on behalf of someone with dementia is a huge decision. There’s an application process which should be followed which involves applying to the Court of Protection and submitting detailed information about the individual living with dementia covering aspects such as finances, living arrangements and care.
The process for how to apply for deputyship involves some key forms: the main application form and then annexes A and B, as well as an assessment of capacity and also the deputy’s declaration. It’s a cumbersome process which can be both time-consuming and difficult. You’ll be required to sign a declaration which explains your responsibilities and duties as deputy. You need to make personal declarations, for example about your own criminal record and details of your own finances.
Beyond the declaration, as a deputy you will also need to demonstrate that you have the time, energy, skills and knowledge to be a deputy for the person with dementia. For example, if you are bankrupt or have significant health issues yourself, then you are unlikely to be considered suitable for deputyship.
Additional forms may be needed such as a form which explains why deputyship is needed over other options.
Filling in the forms is complex and you may get offered help from the court, but they cannot offer advice. An alternative is to use a solicitor, although you will be responsible for the costs involved initially, although the court may authorise the person’s money to be used up to a set point.
There is an application fee to be paid when you apply for deputyship. As with solicitor costs, the fee can come from the money of the person with dementia, if you are applying for a property and affairs deputyship. Exceptions are possible, if the person with dementia is not financially able to pay. If you’re applying for a personal welfare deputyship then you are required to pay this directly. Your financial situation may be taken into account to decide if a fee exception can be made.
Once the application is submitted, the Court of Protection decides if you are suitable as a deputy. It can be a lengthy process, taking several months.
It’s necessary to inform various parties, including the person with dementia, of the application.
If you are granted deputyship then you will be sent an order in the post, appointing you as deputy. You will need this document to enact various roles as deputy, for example with banks. With a property and affairs order, it is necessary to organise a ‘security bond’ with an insurer before the courts will post out the physical order.
There are many organisations you will need to tell about the deputyship so that they will allow you to deal with them. You will need to show them the order, but probably also provide personal identification.
The most common organisations that you need to inform include the DWP (covering pensions and benefits), banks and building societies, private pension companies, the local authority, HMRC (if the person must submit a tax return) and insurance companies. In addition, you may need to inform the care home where the person lives or all of the utility companies if they still live at home. It may also be necessary to tell the person’s solicitor and accountant.
As deputy, you must carry out the terms of the deputyship order to the best of your ability and in the person’s best interests. The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) is responsible for protecting people who lack mental capacity to make their own decisions and will check that you are carrying out your duties properly. They may visit in person, or call you. During your first year as deputy you will be placed under ‘general supervision’ where you will be given more support and guidance. Later on, you may only get ‘minimal’ supervision.
The OPG can support you in your role as deputy in various different ways. They can support you via home visits and phone calls. There is an annual supervision fee that is applicable and the services you receive are funded by this. If you have any questions about your role as deputy, the OPG should be your first port of call.
Ideally, individuals will have appointed their own Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) when they are diagnosed and when they still have the mental capacity to do so. If they have granted someone LPA then this remains in place once the individual with dementia is no longer able to make their own decisions.
However, if the dementia progressed very quickly, before it was possible to make a LPA, or for any other reason that there isn’t a LPA in place, then the court can appoint someone as deputy. Deputyship is determined by the courts, not the individual themselves.
Navigating processes such as deputyship can be complex. It’s just one reason why the support of a care home can be invaluable to families, as well as the resident themselves.