With financial abuse stories of the vulnerable on the increase (even more so with the economic downturn) we at Nicholls Law decided to look at one of the main possible causes of this.
Our experience and research showed that there seemed to be a gap in the market between the services offered in the private sector, and the resulting services offered in the public sector. Thus it was identified that a large number of possible vulnerable people were not in receipt of any form of a money management service or guidance. The repercussions of this for these individuals are wide reaching, including to name a few: continuing ill health (physical & mental), open to financial abuse and other forms of abuse, homelessness, further debt problems, not making the most of opportunities available to them and so on.
The main factor behind the gap in the two sectors we found were:
Private Sector – Organisations (primarily law firms) working within the private sector are allowed to charge either ‘fixed costs’ or ‘assessed costs’ for Court of Protection (CoP) work undertaken. The majority of organisations opt to charge assessed costs, as these costs far exceed the fixed costs set by the CoP annually. Assessed costs will generally take into account the size of the client’s estate. Thus these organisations tend to pick and choose who they want to act for, and will typically decide to act for the ‘high net wealth’ clients, or those with significant assets.
So what happens to those clients that do not possess significant assets? Well traditionally they were taken on by the:
Public Sector – However as these services are non-statutory for these public sector organisations (primarily local authorities), and combined with swingeing public sector cuts, a number are either:
- scaling back these services with the view to eventually winding them down
- disbanding these services, or
- looking at options to outsource these services
One possible solution muted was to see if charities and not-for-profit organisations would be interested in providing these services. Thus late last year the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) issued a Call For Evidence to all charities and not-for-profits to garner initial interest. However the feedback we have received is that the response from these organisations was ‘luke-warm’ to say the best.
Nicholls Law is hoping to go some way to filling a sizeable proportion of this gap. We take our commitment to protecting the most vulnerable in society seriously, and thus we look to take on all clients that may require our services. Not just the ‘high net wealth’ clients mentioned above.
By working closely with local authorities, charities, not-for-profit organisations, social enterprises, other law practices, care providers, Primary Care Trusts, the NHS, advocates & the general public, we aim to reduce the amount of financial abuse cases of the vulnerable that are currently occurring.
Please refer to our Appointeeship/Court of Protection services.