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Deputy Standards - what are they?
When someone lacks the mental capacity to make their own decisions, an application can be made to the Court of Protection for the appointment of a deputy.
It is possible to have a professional deputy, a public authority deputy or a lay deputy. Our firm acts as professional deputy for over 60 clients.
A lay deputy is usually a friend or family member of the person who lacks the capacity to make decisions for themselves.
The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) supports and supervises deputies. Assurance visits and deputy standards form an important part of this.
What are assurance visits and deputy standards?
Assurance visits look at specific cases and how a deputy is managing and administering their deputyships. The visitor carrying out the assurance visit will make reference to the deputy standards. The deputy will need to be able to show that they are adhering to the deputy standards and acting in the clients’ best interests.
Deputy standards were introduced in July 2015 and apply to professional and public authority deputies – they do not apply to lay deputies. The guidance is detailed and sets out what is expected of deputies. It also provides a checklist of actions and behaviour that every deputy should follow. This is based on five standards:
- Secure the client’s finance and assets.
- Gain insight of the client to make decisions in their best interests.
- Maintain effective internal office processes and organisation.
- Have the skills and knowledge to carry out duties as deputy.
- Health and welfare standards.
The guidance sets out the steps deputies should take and the documents that they should retain to evidence that they have complied with the applicable standards.
Standards 1-4 cover property and affairs deputies and standards 2-5 cover health and welfare deputies.
An example of deputy standards
When you are appointed as deputy, standard 1a(4) says:
identify, review and secure all benefits the client may be entitled to. Submit claims and lodge appeals at the earliest opportunity.
This means a deputy is responsible for claiming all of the benefits the client may be entitled to receive. The deputy could evidence this by having records of communications with a benefits specialist and or the Department for Work and Pensions.
There is also an ongoing responsibility on the deputy, standard 1b(1) says:
Carry out benefit and public authority funding reviews at least once a year, ensuring any changes in the client’s assets are reported properly.
Therefore, not only does the deputy need to ensure the client is receiving all of the benefits they are entitled to, they must keep benefit entitlement under regular review.
What are the benefits of deputy standards?
Deputy standards should make it easier for the OPG to ensure professional and public authority deputies are operating to the same high standard.
Most professional and public authority deputies will already be meeting or exceeding deputy standards so the standards offer reassurance that the deputy is doing what is best for their client at all times.
Deputy standards may help a deputy identify areas for improvement, for example they may prompt a deputy to consider something they have not done before, perhaps obtaining specialist legal advice on a community care or education issue.
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