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London Court Seizes 3.2 Billion Pounds Of Assets From Mentally Ill Old People

Court of Protection set up two years ago in Britain has taken control of more than £3.2billion of assets belonging to mentally ill old persons who have not made a 'living will', The Mail, London

PTI [ Updated: October 25, 2009 12:51 IST ]
london court seizes 3.2 billion pounds of assets from
london court seizes 3.2 billion pounds of assets from mentally ill old people

Court of Protection set up two years ago in Britain has taken control of more than £3.2billion of assets belonging to mentally ill old persons who have not made a 'living will', The Mail, London reported on Sunday.

The court was set up to act in the interests of people suffering from Alzheimer's or other mental incapacity.

The court hears about 23,000 cases a year - always in private - involving people deemed unable to take their own decisions. Using far-reaching powers, the court has so far taken control of more than £3.2billion of assets, th report said.

The cases involve civil servants from the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), which last year took £23million in fees directly from the bank accounts of those struck down by mental illness, involved in accidents or suffering from dementia.

The officials are legally required to act in cases where people do not have a 'living will', or lasting power of attorney, which hands control of their assets over to family or friends.

But the system elicited an extraordinary 3,000 complaints in its first 18 months of operation. Among them were allegations that officials failed to consult relatives, imposed huge fees and even 'raided' elderly people's homes searching for documents.

Carers trying to cope with a mentally impaired loved one, forced to apply for a court order to access money, said they felt the system put them under suspicion as it assumed at the outset that they were out to defraud their relatives.

Opposition politicians said the system, set up by Justice Secretary Jack Straw, needed to be overhauled to take account of the fact that most people were 'honourable and decent' and had their loved ones' best interests at heart.

The Government now says everyone should establish a lasting power of attorney to state who should look after their affairs should they become incapacitated - although most people will be utterly unaware of this advice.

Only 60,000 people in Britain have registered these 'living wills' with the authorities, and the problems begin when someone is suddenly, unexpectedly mentally impaired.

Without this document, relatives must apply to the courts and the anonymous OPG, part of the Ministry of Justice based in an office block in Birmingham, is required to look into the background of carers to decide if they are fit to run the ill or elderly person's affairs.

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