Case Study: Safeguarding & Best Interests – Protecting Adults At Risk
How Cate Searle and Chloe Smith helped a client to protect her mother from emotional and financial abuse by her son, through the Court of Protection.
Mrs M contacted Martin Searle Solicitors in 2012, with concerns about her mother’s wellbeing. Her mother, Mrs P, is a widow in her early 80s, and was diagnosed with dementia in 2011. Her son and daughter assisted her in making Lasting Power of Attorneys in relation to both her Property & Financial Affairs and Health and Welfare, with her children acting jointly. At this time, there were no concerns about Mrs P’s capacity to make these LPAs.
Both adult children had contact with their mother, and Mrs M assisted her mother with online shopping, home maintenance and arranging carers to assist her mother as and when required. Mrs M became concerned about her mother when her brother unexpectedly moved in with Mrs P and his family, and began to make changes. The brother removed photos of Mrs M and her contact details and would not allow Mrs M to see or speak to her mother. He threw things away without asking, including furniture and personal possessions, rearranged the layout of the home and changed the locks so that Mrs M could not access her mother’s home. Mrs P became overwhelmed by the family of four who moved in after she had spent almost two decades living alone. Mrs P became stressed and anxious because her son told her that Mrs M wanted her to go into a care home, which was completely untrue, and would make derogatory remarks about Mrs M to Mrs P. Mrs M was also concerned about her mother’s finances, and evidence later showed that her brother was spending her mother’s money as if it were his own, making no contributions to utility bills or groceries, and withdrawing cash using Mrs P’s debit card for unknown purchases for his family.
Mrs P became more anxious and confused by the situation, and Mrs M alerted Social Services to these safeguarding concerns. Mrs M did not believe that her mother’s best interests were being met by her brother and felt that her mother’s dementia had worsened, so she wanted to know what she could do to protect her mother from harm.
What Martin Searle Solicitors did
- Cate Searle met with Mrs M from our office in Croydon, who explained the situation and why she was concerned about her mother. After Social Services conducted an initial assessment of Mrs P, numerous issues arose that required resolving.
- We put pressure on Social Services to conduct their safeguarding assessment in a timely manner, and requested that further information was obtained in regards to Mrs P’s capacity.
- Unfortunately, Social Services did not act quickly enough for Mrs P, whose house was put on the market and who had unknowingly signed a document that revoked the Lasting Power of Attorneys that she had made when she had capacity. Mrs P was eventually found to lack capacity to revoke the LPAs which she had done under instructions from her son, and could not remember signing the revocation, but it was too late. Her son had asked her to sign new LPAs with him as sole attorney.
- We contacted the Office of the Public Guardian, Mrs P’s banks and Land Registry to notify them of the safeguarding concerns. Our requests for information and assistance were ignored because Mrs M was no longer her mother’s Attorney.
- After 5 months of living with her son, Mrs P left her home and went to a neighbour’s house to ask for help. Despite Social Services’ involvement in trying to mediate and control the situation, Mrs P had ‘had enough’ of her son and his family, and felt trapped in her own home. The neighbour contacted Mrs M, who collected her mother and some belongings from Mrs P’s home so that Mrs P could stay with her temporarily.
- After further requests of assistance from various authorities and organisations, including contacting Mrs M’s brother himself, we made an urgent application to the Court of Protection to try to help Mrs P return to her own home, alone, and to rectify the damage caused by her son.
- Two days before the hearing, Social Services completed a Best Interest decision making process, which confirmed that it was in Mrs P’s best interests to live in her own home, and that there were considerable concerns about her son’s conduct which had negatively affected his mother’s mental health and her finances.
- We gathered evidence and witness statements to clarify and prove that Mrs M’s concerns were well-founded and worked with Social Services to ensure that a care plan was written and a package prepared for Mrs P’s return home.
- We obtained an occupation order removing Mrs P’s son and his family from her home, with a power of arrest attached in case he did not comply with the order.
- We obtained an order that Mrs M is appointed as her mother’s Deputy for Property & Financial Affairs
We satisfied the Court and Social Services that Mrs P had suffered significant harm due to her son’s actions and that she would be at risk of suffering further harm unless the Court ordered his removal from her home. We also satisfied the Court that Mrs P’s best interests could be met by Mrs M alone, and Social Services stated that any contact Mrs P has with her son must be supervised until further order.
If you need expert advice with regards to Safeguarding Adults at Risk, our specialist Community Care team can help. Contact us to find out more.