Vulnerable people must always have expert representation in welfare cases, the Law Society has said, unveiling a mental capacity accreditation scheme for solicitors serving the Court of Protection.

The Court of Protection makes decisions about enforced medication treatment, care, deprivation of liberty or limits on people’s movements.

Chancery Lane has been working with the court and The City Law School to provide training and accreditation to ensure expert legal representation is available for all mental capacity cases in which welfare matters are at stake.

Society president Robert Bourns said: ‘Anyone living with dementia, a learning disability or brain injury, for instance, must have their best interests protected, whether they are in a hospital, care or family home.

‘To ensure this is done, they should have the value and reassurance of expert legal representation to protect their rights, as well as their health and general welfare.’

The scheme was developed following a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 2014, P v Cheshire West & Chester Council; P & Q v Surrey County Council, which lowered the threshold for cases to go to the Court of Protection. As a result, the number of vulnerable people whose restrictions require court authorisation increased.

The president of the Court of Protection has approved the accreditation pursuant to the Court of Protection Rules, enabling suitably accredited members to act as accredited legal representatives. 

The accreditation is open to solicitors, barristers and fellows of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, who offer advice on health and welfare matters under the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

Bourns said: ‘The [accreditation] will ensure that vulnerable people coming to the Court of Protection are represented by experts with a depth of understanding of the complexities involved in representing clients who lack mental capacity.

‘As our population ages and the number of people who need long-term care grows, it is essential that measures to protect people who lack mental capacity are fit for purpose.’