Does my child need a professional deputy, and what do I need to know?
This month is cerebral palsy awareness month. Its estimated that around 1 in 400 children are born with cerebral palsy and there are around 300,000 children in the UK with cerebral palsy. For some children, this may have been caused as a result of clinical negligence resulting in a compensation settlement.
Our Senior Associate, Jemma Cahan has a background as a clinical negligence solicitor specialising in birth injury claims, prior to becoming a Court of Protection solicitor with JE Bennett Law. She has some advice on what to think about if you have been advised to appoint a professional deputy for your child.
Who appoints a deputy?
If your child is not going to have capacity to manage their own finances, then a deputy will need to be appointed by the Court of Protection to manage their finances on their behalf. The Court have to be satisfied that whoever is appointed deputy will be able to manage a large settlement to ensure that the funds do not run out during your child’s lifetime. In recent years the Court have been reluctant to appoint a lay deputy where there is a large compensation settlement because the Court needs to be confident that the deputy has the skills and experience to properly manage your child’s compensation.
What does a professional deputy do?
Managing the compensation settlement and the administration of the deputyship can be daunting and time consuming. Complex issues often arise in the initial years following a settlement and there can be a lot of work to do. Even in later years there can be a lot of administration and financial planning and management required. The deputy must also report to the Office of Public Guardian every year to account for the decisions that have been made, and the funds that have been spent on behalf of your child.
What work is involved?
The sort of issues that the deputy will need to deal with may include:
- Instructing a financial advisor to invest the compensation and prepare financial forecasts to ensure the compensation lasts the lifetime of your child
- Liaising with your child’s case manager and care team to ensure they have all the support and therapy and professional input that your child needs. This might also include recruitment of carers as permanent employees and may include managing all aspects of acting as an employer for the carers
- Purchasing a property for your child, and liaising with architects and other professionals to ensure that it is adapted to fully suit your child and their future needs
- Managing the financial administration that comes with having a team of carers and therapists who submit regular invoices, and managing the purchasing and budgeting of the specialist aids and equipment that will be needed as your child gets older and their needs change
- Keeping records of all financial transactions and best interest decisions made for your child
- Ensuring your child is receiving the appropriate government benefits and financial support from your local authority or CCG if your child is entitled to funding and dealing with applications or reviews or appeals if your child is not receiving all the support and funding, they are eligible for.
What are the obligations of a professional deputy?
Whether you are a lay deputy or a professional deputy, both the Court of Protection and Office of Public Guardian expect all deputies to comply with the same obligations and reporting requirements and all deputies must comply with the principles of the Mental Capacity Act 2005. If a deputy does not comply with their obligations, they may be removed as a deputy for your child and someone else may be appointed by the court instead.
Why we think it’s worth appointing a professional deputy
We know that it can be a wonderful but challenging experience having a disabled child and it often comes with a lot of extra work and administration, and often time spent liaising with professionals, local authorities and government bodies. If you appoint a professional deputy they can take over a lot of that work, administration and management of the financial side of things to leave you with more time to focus on your child and the needs that only you as their parent can meet.
At JE Bennett Law our team are experienced at working with families to ensure that we can support you, so you can support your child. We recognise the relationship with the deputy will be different for each child and their family and we will work with you to ensure that we build a supporting working relationship that’s right for you and your child.