Much ado about financial deputies

I rarely delve into financial aspects of the MCA, partly because it comes up very rarely in my role, and partly because cases of interest are so infrequent. But I read this on a few weeks ago, and it’s been playing on my mind.

The case of Sunil Kambli v Public Guardian and others [2021] EWCOP 53 caught my eye because the facts seem a bit like the plot to a soap opera. At the centre if the case is a young person aged 12, who sustained cerebral palsy due to medical negligence and is the beneficiary of a significant negligence compensation award. He is referred to as MBR in the judgement. That award has been managed by a professional deputy but MBR lived with his family in a home that had been purchased with funds from the compensation award and adapted to his needs. The parents were paid to provide care through the same fund, and further works were being undertaken at the property arranged by the father, who expected the cost to be met through the fund. The cost of those works did appear to be getting somewhat out if control.

There seems to have been very little consultation between the family and the professional deputy and disagreements seemed to be common. The deputy was concerned that if the rate of expenditure continued, the property would need to be sold within approximately 8 years. I doubt that this is what was initially envisaged. I expect that the intention was to create a long-term home for the young person to benefit from during his lifetime, not to be significantly downsizing in his early 20s.

It is not uncommon for these kinds of arrangements to be set up using compensation funds, allowing the recipient to live in a home that is suitable for their needs, alongside their family. Such a placement will then operate much like a family home, with the individual also receiving support from formal carers when if needed. There are clear benefits to the person of such an arrangement, and if that means the family are living in a home that is significantly larger than they would have otherwise, well then that is just icing on the cake.


But I am reminded of a case that I became involved in, which came to the local authority as a safeguarding alert because of conflict between the family and the carers for the young person. For the most part, it was not malicious on either side. The issue was just that the parents had a clear idea of what they thought was in their daughter’s best interests, and the carers disagreed. And it started as innocuous little things like her mother returning the prom dress she had picked with the carers, or the parents not agreeing to the young woman attending a concert if her younger sister could not attend too. After a while though, the social worker did have some concerns about whether the young woman was being supported to promote her independence fully. At one point the young woman was in receipt of 2:1 care, not because she needed 2 carers, but because additional support was needed to prevent a younger sibling from entering the room during personal care.

The care was also arranged by a professional deputy, so the social worker’s involvement was limited to safeguarding enquiries. As far as I am aware, the young person remains living with her family in the home owned in her name, but the care arrangements were altered to better reflect the young woman’s autonomy and independence.

It draw some very real and difficult questions about whether the arrangements were in her best interests for a while, though. There is no doubt that most people benefit significantly from time with their families and should be supported to stay with their families when this is what all parties want. In a small number of cases though, the best interests of the person and the best interests of the family don’t align. Had it not been possible to resolve some of the issues in the case I was involved with, the deputy may have found themselves in a situation where they had to consider arrangements where the young woman did not reside with her family (although contact with the family would have still been supported, I am sure).

After all, it is perfectly normal for young people to move out of the family home as they mature. It just may have been more complicated if what was actually sought was for the young person to remain in the property and her family move, or for everyone to move, and a smaller property be purchased for her to live in with a care team.

Thankfully, it never came to that.

I do wonder if that may be what happens in MBR’s case in a few years, though After all, it appears that three professional deputies had been appointed by the court and all three had applied to be replaced on the basis that the relationship with the family had broken down. And as long as MBR lived with the family, that relationship was going to be of vital importance (not that it wouldn’t continue to be important even if they did not live together).

The judgement recognises that much of the family’s behaviour is difficult to justify, if not downright unreasonable. The father was excluded from being considered as a deputy due to a previous conviction for fraud, and various other family members were also involved in that affair and not considered appropriate. It is easy to see why the professional deputy was appointed in the first place

It is also easy to see why each successive professional deputy sought to be discharged from the role. It is my understanding they cannot be forced to carry out the role, but it left the judge with a difficult decision to make about what to do going forward. There was no reason to believe the involvement of a further professional deputy would have any different outcome. Yet it seemed that even if the parents were not disqualified, there would be a real question about whether their appointment would be in MBR’s best interests.

Ultimately the court appointed 2 more distant family members jointly as deputy, in the hope that they would succeed where the professional deputies had not. A number of safeguards were put in place, however, to allow for the particular circumstances in this case.

The first is a requirement for the new deputies to apply to the court in the event of any disagreement between them and the parents. The second is for their appointment to be time limited and reviewed by the court in due course. This is unusual and in most cases a deputyship is granted ‘until further order’. The court also limited the authority of the deputies, approving a budget that is within MBR’s means and preventing the deputies from selling the house or from withdrawing the investments without prior approval from the court.

I cannot help but wonder whether the court will be called upon to make welfare decisions in the future too, if the problems experienced to date continue. We shall have to wait and see if any further judgements are published.

This case also serves as yet another example of where the limits of what can achieve are dictated not be the law, but by that most unpredictable of variables: the behaviour of people. I have spoken before about that issue here.

In case it isn’t obvious from the fact I still haven’t identified the authority I used to work for, or the organisation I now work for, the views expressed on this blog are my own opinion and not the opinion of either that local authority or organisation

Leave a Reply