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Martin Searle Solicitors Builds Biggest Private Law Community Care Law Team In The South

Demand for advice about paying for care is growing at ‘alarming rate’ says director.

Martin Searle Solicitors is forming the largest non-legal aid Community Care Law team in the South, as the firm’s recruitment drive continues. The move is a direct response to the introduction of new legislation which has left vulnerable adults and the elderly struggling to access the care they need.

The firm’s co-founder and head of Martin Searle’s Community Care Law department, Cate Searle, says: “When it comes to planning and paying for care, demand for expert advice is growing at an alarming rate.” She has therefore welcomed three new members to her team – Carolyn Hunnisett, Rachel Burley-Stower and Clare English – recruiting people with a mix of occupational experience and legal expertise.

Carolyn Hunnisett has a law degree and a Masters in Health through Occupation – specialising in the Mental Capacity Act. Her extensive CV includes the role of Continuing Healthcare, Advocacy Service Manager for Age Concern Oxfordshire, Occupational Therapist in a NHS Psychiatric Hospital and running training courses on Powers of Attorney for local carers groups.

Rachel Burley-Stower, solicitor, joins Martin Searle with 16 years Community Care Law experience gained in various London-based firms. She has many years’ experience in challenging decisions by social services and bringing claims for judicial review.

Clare English joins the firm with a Distinction from the Graduate Diploma in Law at University of Brighton, and the OUP Prize for best first-year Postgraduate Diploma in Law student. Clare is employed as the Community Care team paralegal whilst she trains to become a Legal Executive.

“People with a clinical background such as occupational health bring a unique insight into the interplay between health issues and the legal context, which is vital to the work we do for vulnerable adults and elderly clients. That is why I was delighted when Carolyn agreed to join the team,” says Cate.

She adds: “Rachel is a hugely experienced litigator with expertise in Court of Protection litigation, safeguarding vulnerable adults and High Court challenges on behalf of individuals with complex health and social care needs. She brings her public law background to private practice. This is extremely valuable for people who now have to pay for their own care due to changes under the Care Act 2014.

“Our team is diverse and exceptionally capable of securing the best results for our clients because we know how the system works from the inside. Our role is to advise our clients about complex community care law issues that affect their daily lives. We advise on realistic provisions and funding for care which we are likely to secure on their behalf. We ensure that all steps taken are transparent and legal. Lots of people have fallen foul of the rules because they have tried to circumvent them. For example, giving away assets to family members to avoid paying for care. The risks and consequences of this are far-reaching at a time when a person is most in need of care and support. Instead, people need to be clear about how, where and by whom they want to be cared for in the future and how this should be funded. We ensure our clients are in a position to make informed decisions.”

Carolyn says: “In this role I am able to combine my skills and background in mental health work with my legal expertise to make sure people receive the care they are entitled to, and help ensure people who are protected under the Mental Capacity Act are properly safeguarded. This is something I am hugely passionate about.”

Rachel comments: “People are often denied care to which they are legally entitled in an effort by local authorities to save on costs. Health and Social Services owe a wide range of duties to individuals with support needs, and we are here to fight on their behalf to achieve a fair outcome.”

Founded in 2004, Martin Searle Solicitors now occupies five offices across the South of England and, represents the largest, non-legal aid Community Care Law team in the region. According to Cate, one of the main reasons for the firm’s most recent expansion is the failure of the Care Act 2014 to make a positive impact.

She says: “The Care Act which promised so much has delivered so little – leaving vulnerable adults and the elderly further away from accessing care and necessary health and social care services. In many cases, decisions to decline an application for funding are unlawful but challenging health or social services is extremely difficult without a specialist lawyer.”

Cate’s team doesn’t just work with individuals and families; they advise other professionals, such as accountants and solicitors, who act as Professional Deputies and Attorneys. This is because anyone managing clients’ monies and care must now grapple with the Care Act 2014 and public law issues with which they may not have previous experience.

Cate says: “Many private client solicitors will not have challenged a decision made by health or social services on behalf of their clients before. This is where my team are able to provide specialist Community Care Law support on an ad-hoc basis.

“A lot of people still think they will be able to relax in retirement and enjoy the things they have worked, saved and cared for all their working lives, only to discover, too late, that this isn’t the case. Planning and paying for care is a massive issue and one which people really need to consider far earlier in their lives than they currently do.”

As part of the firm’s ongoing commitment to help vulnerable and elderly people get it right when they plan and pay for their future care, Cate is speaking at a joint conference titled ‘Planning to Remove the Stress’ on 22 October 2015 in Hove. To secure a place email sophie@ms-solicitors.co.uk or find out more here.

About the author

Martin Searle Solicitors

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Founded in Brighton in 2004, Martin Searle Solicitors is an award-winning law firm providing specialist legal advice and support in employment law for employers and employees, as well as expert guidance and legal advice in community care law.

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