COVID–19: some practical considerations when acting as a Property and Affairs Deputy
As professional Property and Affairs Deputies, many of us have dedicated our working lives to help protect the interests of our vulnerable clients. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on some practical aspects of fulfilling our roles and we are continuing to find solutions to help support our clients and their wider care teams during these unprecedented times.
A large proportion of our clients have the benefit of care teams to meet their personal and welfare needs. Some of these teams can be extensive and require individuals to work in groups of at least 2 (or more) when supporting the most vulnerable.
Many of our clients are highly susceptible to infection and therefore at greater risk of contracting illness. We have in certain cases been approached to furlough care staff where they feel at personal risk by continuing to attend on P and wish to self-isolate for a period of time. We must balance those requests against ensuring that our clients receive all appropriate levels of care.
Often, family members are called upon to step-in in these unprecedented times. Indeed, some families prefer to self-implement ‘shielding’ measures by discontinuing contact with wider care teams for a period of time where they can safely provide care, usually under the supervision of a case manager or team leader.
Whilst the government has provided a fund to help pay towards the cost of furloughed staff, it is unlikely that we as Deputies will be able to take the benefit of that financial support, in cases where there is access to a damages award or periodical payments. We are currently exploring whether an argument might be made to secure funding in cases where there has been a significant reduction in damages value due to contributory negligence.
Many of the carers we have in place are invaluable and we cannot contemplate a loss of the team. We are therefore continuing to pay many carers from P’s fund, during periods where they cannot attend on P. This will help preserve the status quo of an excellent team so that the former level of care can be re-implemented at some point after lockdown, or when it is deemed that shielding measures can abate.
We have already changed our working practises to facilitate hearings via video conference call and we are seeing our vulnerable clients ‘virtually’ to provide Proof of Life certifications where required for on-going receipts of periodical payments. Most of our clients have responded positively to such interactions and organisations, such as those paying out periodical payment awards, have in our experience to-date adopted a flexible approach to the new manner in which evidence must be supplied.
Operational capacity at the banking institutions has been affected and we have therefore needed to plan, even more carefully, weekly and monthly maintenance payments to our clients to ensure that they have access to the funds which they require – building in contingencies for operational delays.
Some of our clients are unable to leave their premises to access cash points or are unfamiliar with internet shopping, and we are therefore facilitating many more direct purchases on behalf of our clients to help ease any burdens associated with their pre-COVID-19 spending patterns or shopping habits. We are working with case managers to help pool food delivery orders for isolated clients to ensure that their needs are being met.
Elevation of stress and anxiety has been apparent across the country and we have seen the impact that COVID-19 concerns have had on, not only P, but their direct carers or loved ones. We have documented anxieties about keeping P safe; implementing effective shielding measures; ensuring access to produce and food; decontamination of work spaces where rotational carers are entering P’s living space and funding and paying for care teams who may not be actively working with P during period of lockdown; to name a few.
We have seen a higher uptake of CBT and related therapies by family members supporting P throughout this pandemic. Alongside our primary duty to act in P’s best interests, I think that it is imperative to support the mental health needs of those caring for P, where often, the care regime revolves around the solid and continued input of a loved one.
A significant proportion of the therapists that we work with successfully provide mental health and psychosocial support ‘virtually’, and we as Deputies are often able to agree to fund this as being justifiably for P’s wider benefit in the present crisis. We are seeing families being placed under additional strain and we wish to allow access to emotional and practical support to those closest to P. In fact, several members of our Deputyship team are trained in championing mental health awareness within our own organisation and we use these skills to help facilitate and support the general management Property and Affairs work that we undertake. There will no doubt be further impact and changes required to our working practices, but we are confident that we can adapt and provide efficient support in these times of uncertainty and change.
*Disclaimer: The information on the Anthony Gold website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.*