When a child with disabilities which affect decision making is approaching adulthood his or her parents have to address many issues about long term wellbeing. They have to make decisions about their child’s future such as whether to continue with education at college or whether to move into supported living in the community. The legal change in parental responsibilities at this time is often overlooked. Although the child may be as dependant as before, they are an adult in the eyes of the law once they reach 18 years of age. This means that there are decisions the parent always made for their child in respect of which they will now only be consulted. These decisions relate, in particular, to medical and dental treatment but care and financial decisions can also be affected. Medical and dental professionals often prefer someone to be granted legal authority to give consent or make choices about treatment on behalf of an adult who lacks capacity. This can especially be the case if the young adult has communication difficulties. Once a child reaches the age of 18 an application can be made to the Court of Protection for the appointment of a Personal Welfare Deputy. The deputy may be more than one person and, typically, will be parents who have been their child’s principal carers throughout his or her life. The deputy will be empowered to give consent to medical treatment and to make care decisions on behalf of the young adult. The care professionals’ advice must of course be taken and considered by the deputy and any decisions must be taken in the best interests of the young adult.
You can apply to become someone’s deputy if they ‘lack mental capacity’ - this means they can’t make a decision for themselves at the time it needs to be made. They may still be able to make decisions for themselves at certain times.