Just two months after the head of one of the area’s largest family and mental health law teams warned that a change in the law giving vulnerable people the right to decide where they live would require a massive increase in financial and human resources to cope with the ensuing demand for case reviews, it has been revealed that applications for Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards are likely to rise tenfold and authorities are already struggling under the pressure.
Now John Lancaster, a partner with Wrexham based law firm GHP Legal, says the predicted chaos has led to those involved in the DoLS process omitting to inform patients of their rights to legal aid.
“In March this year,” said Mr Lancaster who acts for clients in North and Mid Wales, north-west England and Shropshire, “a Supreme Court ruling re-stated that people with disabilities have the same rights as anyone else. Since then it has become increasingly clear that the number of people being deprived of their liberty on mental disability or impairment grounds was vastly underestimated.
“It is right and proper that these cases should be reviewed immediately, in line with the legal rulings. This is, however, not happening due to local authorities being faced with an unplanned explosion of additional work for no extra money, at a time when they are already strapped for cash and making cuts.
“Perhaps it is as a result of the pressures under which they find themselves, but in addition local authorities, hospitals and care homes do not appear to always remember to inform those deprived of their liberty about their rights to seek review through the Court of Protection and, indeed, their rights to non means tested legal aid.
“Although legal aid is not as widely available as it once was, some applications to the Court of Protection can be made with non means tested legal aid. I would recommend that those deprived of their liberty, and their families, seek experienced legal advice immediately.”