There is hope for vulnerable people as Lord Justice Munby issues consultation paper as key step to ending the secrecy of family courts. Decisions made in secret have affected the lives of tens of thousands of vulnerable elderly people, as we reported in an earlier news update.(Read here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/10818296/Courts-braced-for-surge-in-cases-of-elderly-locked-up-against-their-will.html)

Journalist Christopher Booker has been following the drive by Lord Justice Munby, the head of our family courts, to bring the Court of Protection into the ‘glare of publicity.’  Writing in the national press, Christopher Booker describes some heart-breaking cases, including that of a husband forbidden to see his wife ever again after reporting the poor care she was getting at the home she’d been forcibly taken to; he was even forbidden to send her flowers or Christmas and birthday cards. He is heartbroken and has had no contact with her for years. Read Booker’s report here http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2580636/Read-stories-secret-courts-imprison-elderly-care-homes-against-weep.html.

You may also remember the case of the 94 year old former midwife, who came from the West Indies to work for the NHS in the Seventies. Miss G ‘sacked’ carers arranged by Social Services because she was not satisfied with their care, and was being looked after by a couple from her church, who came from the same West Indian island. The council, alarmed to be told that Miss G was planning to leave her property to her new carers, moved to have her ruled as lacking ‘mental capacity’ by the Court of Protection, despite a report from an eminent independent psychologist who had examined her. All her life savings£60,000 were spent on legal fees in defending her wishes. She was forbidden to talk to journalists. Now a final court ruling is that she must again be looked after by carers sent by the council, but she must still be allowed to remain in her own home – which means that the Council cannot sell her house to pay for her care. She is also banned from seeing the couple from her church. Read the story here at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/elderhealth/11038105/How-the-Court-of-Protection-left-a-94-year-old-without-savings-or-dignity.html

Now Lord Justice Mundy has published a consultation paper on opening up the family courts and is inviting preliminary views from the public. Sir James has said that the public has a legitimate interest in being able to read what is being done by the Court’s judges in its name. The consultation paper can be read here: http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/transparency-the-next-steps-consultation-paper.pdf. There is an email address for sending views. Do respond to Sir James’ invitation by going to the website and giving your views. Decisions that affect vulnerable people of all ages, including the elderly, should not be taken in secret. We need to know the process so that we can better protect our relatives and dear ones, and even ourselves. Recent cases that have been reported in the press have been extremely disturbing. In the meantime, you may consider arranging a Power of Attorney. It may never be needed, but it is an insurance against being railroaded against one’s will. You can read about Power of Attorney here: https://www.gov.uk/power-of-attorney/overview.

Louise Morse

Louise Morse MA (CBT) is media and external relations manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society. She is a writer and speaker, and author of books on issues of old age, including dementia, published by Lion Monarch and SPCK. She is a cognitive behavioural therapist, and her Masters’ dissertation examined the effects of caring for a loved one with dementia on close relatives.

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