A Wrexham mental health lawyer has warned that local authorities must adhere fully to the rules if they decide to remove dementia sufferers and other mentally incapacitated people from their homes to place them in care, or else be prepared to pay hefty compensation bills.
John Lancaster, a partner with leading law firm GHP Legal, issued the warning after it came to light this week that a 91-year-old RAF veteran from Essex was forced to leave his beloved cat Fluffy and his home of fifty years when social workers decided to detain him against his will for seventeen months in the locked dementia unit of a residential care home.
To add insult to injury the war veteran was charged £25,000 for the privilege. But this week the Court of Protection ruled that the local authority had breached the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) and ordered it to pay the elderly gentleman damages as well as refunding the care home charges for which he had been billed.
Mr Lancaster, a specialist in the complexities of DoLS, said today: “Whilst social workers have the power to place an elderly person in residential care if they consider it to be in the interests of their safety, they must adhere absolutely to the DoLS legislation and allow the person to challenge their decision in the Court of Protection, with proper legal representation.
“If those depriving patients of their liberty do so unlawfully, under the European convention on human rights they will be breaching the person’s Article 5 rights to liberty and security and Article 8 rights to respect for private and family life.
“Once a person is detained under DoLS, they and their families should be speedily informed of their rights to challenge the detention in the Court of Protection and informed of the names of appropriate specialist lawyers in their area who can assist.”
“Whilst we know that confusion exists among those involved in the care of mentally incapacitated people because DoLS legislation is ever-changing, it is up to everyone to keep pace with the changes and take advantage of training events such as the free course being run in Wrexham on 12 February.
“This event is being chaired by His Honour Judge Butler who sits in the Court of Protection matters at Chester Civil Justice Centre, so it is likely to be well-attended. Places, available to advocates and to care home managers, are however limited, so I would advise anyone who is interested to book immediately.”
For information about the free DoLS course on 12 February 2015 call Leah Mountford or Delyth Underwood on 01978 291456 or email firstname.lastname@example.org