The Mail on Sunday holds out the delicious prospect that we may yet see some ‘naked’ civil servants. Whilst I have lambasted them previously for their inaccurate reporting, they have taken another bite of the Court of Protection cherry, presided over by the aptly named ‘Masters of Lunacy’, and come up with a surprising result.
Justice Secretary Jack Straw has pledged to re-examine the workings of the secretive Court of Protection after a Mail on Sunday investigation exposed huge flaws in the system designed to look after some of Britain’s most vulnerable people.
I have been ‘hammering away’ at this iniquitous and secretive system for 20 years now, I know that my nearest and dearest, to say nothing of my readers, have been known to roll their eyes in the past and say ‘not again’. People find it very hard to grasp the venality of this system until it grips them round the throat, at which point it is too late to say or do anything. One of my closest friends has listened to me on probably a weekly basis telling her to get an enduring power of attorney for her Mother becasue it was clear that her Mother’s condition was leading her gently towards the door of the secretive Court of Protection. Finally she rang me one Sunday and told me that she needed my help; a Doctor had judged that her Mother was no longer of sound mind – so what was it I had said about how to get an Enduring Power of Attorney?
What I had said, and will go on saying until I am blue in the face, is that when you need an Enduring Power of Attorney – it is too late to get one. Like a Will, it is something that must be drawn up in advance of the situation when it is needed. Whislt you have to pay to register such a Power when it is needed, you do not have to pay to download the form and have it signed and ready for use. DO IT NOW!
The Court of Protection, which does not admit the media or the public to scrutinise its affairs, which will only ‘examine’ complaints of its handling of cases on payment of several hundred pounds, which has received almost 900 complaints in the last six months alone, 4,000 since its last Liberace like repaint and reupholster, is the same court which this week ruled (unusually in public) on whether Baby RB should continue to be kept alive, it is the same court which decided that Baby T should not receive any more life giving treatment.
It is the same court which will make the decisions on how long YOUR life will be. It is the same court that will decide whether you are looking after your children or your husband or wife in a manner currently approved of. They can and will make decisions on everything, ranging from the clothes you buy, to where you live. They can and do, send officials to your home with the power to poke into your cupboards, inspect your clothing, and write secret reports to the court which will be taken as ‘evidence’.
It is scarcely surprising that Nu-Labour wished to extend the powers of the Court two years ago, for it is the ultimate Stasi mechanism. Total control of every facet of your life. It can happen to YOU.
What is surprising is that so few bloggers have shown any great interest in the subject. Perhaps they believe that blogging is some sort of protection in itself. It isn’t. The Mail on Sunday contains some remarkable true life accounts, the first time to my memory that real people have been photographed and interviewed in this way. Do read it. It finally puts to bed the lie that the Court of Protection is all about little old ladies who have no relatives. They are people just like you and me. Even Solicitors who thought they would get around to an Enduring Power of Attorney ‘one day’ – and then it was too late.
None of this would really matter if the Court was an effective and competent instrument to handle the few ‘bad apples’ who would take advantage of a vulnerable family member.
They are not. When presented with fraud, they rarely do more than (after the further appropriate fees have been paid, naturally) appoint yet another even more expensive intermediary to deal with day to day affairs. The Mail on Sunday quote one unfortunate recipient of their attentions who had to pay £4,100 in legal bills in order to withdraw £5,800 of her own money from the ‘bank’ of CoP. I am not surprised, I have heard many similar tales.
When the Father of one child died unexpectedly, the Court charged her Mother £42,000 to take over as her official ‘carer’. It is unspeakable.
The system does have some benefits.
It benefits the Doctors who wish to withdraw life saving treatment and fear that they may bear the brunt of legal action by the families concerned. A decision by the Court protects them from this.
It protects Professional Financial Advisers from claims of maladministration of funds – they request an order from the court, and are then ‘acting on legal orders’.
It hires its staff locally along designated ‘diversity’ and ‘equal opportunity’ lines – in Archway, North London this results in a particular mix of newly arrived and not necessarily fluently English speaking staff. Their colour is utterly irrelevant, the fact that they cannot communicate successfully with claimants either by phone or illegible badly written letters is – the claimants have no choice other than to communicate by letter or phone, there is no other way. The guidelines for hiring of staff do not reflect the best interests of the claimants, but some ideological fetish of Nu-Labour.
They insist that money is deposited with them at 0 .5% interest. They claim that for money to be left in High Street banks at up to 3.0% represents a ‘risk’ – a risk that the rest of us are already underwriting.
The Mail on Sunday has chalked up a success of sorts. They have extracted a promise from Jack Straw to ‘examine the rules’ governing the Court of Protection. It is but a tiny chink of light shinning into the bowels of Archway Towers. What is needed is for the very existence of the Court of Protection to be examined, not justified by scare stories of what ‘could happen’ to vulnerable people if it didn’t exist, but forced to produce evidence of the good it actually does. Let us see where it has traced money that has been squandered, let us see where it has protected vulnerable people, let us judge for ourselves whether this intrusive Stasi control of human beings should be allowed to continue in its present form or its much quoted usefulness in paying care home bills for ‘old ladies’ left to the banks to carry out by standing order.
Bloggers can help, they can continue to shine their torches into the murky depths and keep up the pressure to make this court efficient, transparently naked, and accountable – or non-existent.