Our charges were paid by Suffolk County Council for the first 2 years at £500 per person per year + vat. We had hoped to act for clients under the legal aid scheme after this but it proved impossible. It also was clear that the charge of £500 was unsustainable for the PDS.
The Court of Protection, under whose authority we operate, made orders thereafter allowing us to charge £650 + vat, which was the amount needed to be sustainable for the PDS, but also sustainable to the Client. Subsequent to that Suffolk County Council agreed that our charges are a Disability Related Expense in assessing what if any contribution is payable by the Client towards the cost of his support.
Where we are now
We have 150 clients, nearly all in Suffolk, the majority of which are subject to court orders, with some further 30, if they have capacity, but remain vulnerable, and need our help. We never act unless everyone involved agrees to our so doing and will only continue where it is financially in that person’s interest for us to do so.
90+ % of our clients are on benefit. We improve their financial position, on average by 25+%pa, until they approach the cap of £16,000. Nothing is missed in terms of not just necessities, but also holidays and treats. People, friends and family, say we have transformed lives.
The way forward
The costs orders under which we have operated have been called into question at the Court of Protection as the normal rule for someone with net assets under £16,000 is that they can only be charged 4.5% of their savings. It is also stated in the accompanying Code of Practice to the MCA that people on means assessed benefits generally do not need professional support. This has been challenged by MPs from East Anglia in the House of Commons and in the words of Norman Lamb MP
‘In its current form, the Code of Practice to the Mental Capacity Act means that many people who are already in a vulnerable position miss out on receiving crucial support regarding their finances. We should always aim to learn from best practice, and the Professional Deputy Service in Suffolk has shown the difference that the appointment of a Deputy can make to the lives of people who are receiving benefits. I hope that the Government will recognise the importance of this and implement the changes to the Code of Practice without delay.”
The High Court in London have now been asked to consider the matter, whether it is appropriate for professional help to be available and what charges are appropriate, and this will be considered later this month. It is very much hoped the Court will agree with the views of many families that what is being provided by the PDS is not a luxury, but a necessity, and approve individually for each client, the general orders of the costs of the PDS which have operated to date.
Contact details for the Professional Deputy Service (PDS)
PO Box 223
Telephone: 01473 736296