Lawyer Monthly - September 2023

Caring for Severely Disabled Children Post-18: Health and Financial Challenges 44 LAWYER MONTHLY SEPTEMBER 2023 Parents and guardians of severely disabled children often grow accustomed to having control over their child’s health and financial concerns, without realising that this authority legally ends once the child reaches adulthood. To continue providing support to their child in decision-making, several necessary steps must be taken. Andy Riddle provides a comprehensive guide to this process, also delving into the now common problems that Child Trust Fund holders are facing when it comes to accessing their contents. Expert Insight Can you tell us a little about the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and what it means for the legal ability of a severely disabled 18-year-old to make decisions? The Mental Capacity Act 2005 (which actually came into force in 2007) helps make sure that people who may lack capacity to make decisions on their own get the support they need to make those decisions. Where they are not able to make their own decision, the Act says a decision must be made that is in their ‘best interests’. The Act is a law that protects vulnerable adults around decision-making. It says that every adult, whatever their disability, has the right to make their own decisions wherever possible. People should always support a person to make their own decisions if they can. This might mean giving them information in a format that they can understand, or explaining something in a different way. But if a decision is too big or complicated for a person to make, even with appropriate information and support, then people supporting them must make a ‘best interests’ decision for them. Once a child attains the age of 18 representing adulthood, their parents, family members, friends and other close ones will no longer have any legal authority over that person’s health and welfare or property and financial affairs. If they have been deemed to lack capacity around these two aspects of their lives (and thus unable to instruct when it comes to setting up a lasting power of attorney), then a loved one will need to apply to the Court of Protection to become their deputy/s for either or possibly both aspects of the disabled person’s life. For parents that have raised their severely disabled child since birth, this may come as a major shock when they visit their local hospital or GP after their child has turned 18, only to be

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