Law ‘clarified’ in decisions when teenagers with learning disabilities turn 18

Lawyers have welcomed a ruling by a judge who was asked to consider whether parents should still decide what is best when teenagers with learning disabilities become adults.

Three families had begun litigation in the Court of Protection, where judges consider issues relating to people who lack the mental capacity to make decisions.

Their lawyers say a ruling by Mr Justice Hayden has “clarified the law” surrounding how decisions affecting the future of “young people” with learning disabilities are made.

The judge had analysed the case at a hearing in London in March and published a ruling on Wednesday.

Solicitors at law firm Irwin Mitchell are representing the three families and said there was a need for clarity about the interpretation of a code of practice which governs judges’ interpretation of mental capacity legislation.

They said parents had decision-making responsibility for children with learning disabilities but legislation said decisions must be taken “collectively by everyone interested in their welfare” when teenagers turn 18.

Lawyers say relatives can be ignored as a result and the three families argue that it should be commonplace for parents to be given “welfare deputy” status.

An Irwin Mitchell spokesman said on Wednesday that Mr Justice Hayden had “clarified the law”.

Lawyer Alex Rook (pictured) added: “This challenge was brought because our clients and many other parents believed that the law, which stated that they would only be appointed as deputies in ‘the most difficult cases’, needed to be changed.

“All they want is to be able to help their children have the best chance in life but felt this was not happening because of how the law was interpreted.”

He went on: “Our clients appreciate that the court will need to consider every application on its merits, but welcome today’s ruling.

“They hope that now that the judge has clarified that the code needs to be redrafted, making it clear that there is no presumption against them being welfare deputies, that it will become more common for family members to be appointed as welfare deputies.

“Although the judge has suggested that in the majority of cases a welfare deputy will not be needed, our experience and that of our clients is that in many cases it would indeed be in the young adult’s best interests for their family to be able to continue to make decisions in their loved one’s best interests where they are unable to make the decision themselves.”

Families from London, Brighton, East Sussex, and Windsor, Berkshire, had launched litigation.

Each has a son or daughter, either in their late teens or twenties, with a learning disability.

Disability rights campaigner Rosa Monckton, of Brighton, who was a friend of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, is one of the parents involved.

She had launched litigation alongside Caroline Hopton, from Windsor, and Lucy and Simon Mottram, from north London.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Irwin Mitchell.