I am an Attorney or Deputy – how can I carry out my role during the coronavirus outbreak?


23 April 2020

During the current coronavirus outbreak, we are all having to adjust to the Government's new strict rules on social distancing and only being able to leave the house for a few, very specific, reasons. But what if you act as an Attorney or Deputy for a vulnerable person?

How can you continue to carry out your responsibilities during these uncertain times? And what if you are self-isolating because you, or someone in your household, are showing symptoms of the virus or if you are shielding because of an underlying health condition? This may mean you cannot visit the vulnerable person, which is something you are usually required to do as part of your role.

The Office of the Public Guardian has issued guidance to Attorneys and Deputies who are in this position and states that “your role and responsibilities as a deputy or attorney remain the same”. An Attorney or Deputy is personally appointed and as such, cannot delegate decision making on behalf of an incapacitated person to someone else. However, an Attorney or Deputy can, having made a decision, ask someone else to carry it out on their behalf. So, for example, you can make a decision to use a incapacitated person’s money to buy a specific item, but then arrange for someone else to deliver it.

The fact that you might not be able to visit the person for the time being does not mean you need to step down from your role, and you should consider how else you can stay in touch with the vulnerable person - perhaps via a direct telephone or video call, or by asking a carer to pass on information. If you need to make a decision about a person’s health or welfare, make sure you consult with other relevant people such as family, medical practitioners or social workers, and only make decisions in the person’s best interests.

It is not possible to temporarily step down from being an Attorney or Deputy although there is always the option to permanently disclaim your appointment. However, this involves time delays and costs whilst a new person is appointed, and this could unnecessarily impact the vulnerable person further, so you must think carefully before taking this step.

The Office of the Public Guardian has useful guidance on how to be an attorney or deputy and you should always consult the Mental Capacity Act Code of Practice if you have questions about how to carry out your role; do take legal advice if necessary. At Birketts, we have a dedicated team of lawyers who specialise in advising Attorneys and Deputies on their roles and can make Court applications on your behalf. Therefore if you are unsure about what you should be doing, or how you can still effectively act as an Attorney or Deputy during the coronavirus outbreak, please contact the Private Client Team and ask to speak to a member of the Court of Protection team.

The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at April 2020.

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