A Local Authority v WMA and MA [2013] EWHC 2580 (COP)

A twenty five year old man (“WMA”) was suffering from atypical autism and a pervasive development disorder.  He had been living at home with his mother (“MA”) who had sight and mobility problems of her own.  The local authority alleged that MA was unable to care for her son properly.  There were concerns about the isolated life WMA was living and how this would impact on his long term development.  There had been a long term history of neglect during WMA’s life and he had spent short periods in foster care and a respite facility.  His health was also not being monitored appropriately. The social work team had decided that WMA should be moved into supported living accommodation.

WMA and MA had previously been moved from their home by the local authority due to the “squalid” conditions of the property.  WMA and MA also had a history of not engaging with professionals and organisations that were offering assistance.  It became clear to those involved that MA had hindered WMA’s adult development and he did not have the necessary skills for everyday living.  MA kept WMA at home and he could not freely explore his local community.  The local authority also alleged that MA was psychologically abusive of WMA and that she was unable to cope with her son’s outbursts.

The court heard evidence from a consultant psychiatrist who was satisfied that WMA met the functional and diagnostic tests under sections 2 and 3 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.   However, it was argued that given WMA’s high level of functioning for a person with a learning disability, his wishes and feelings should be accorded more weight.  The consultant psychiatrist felt that any formal support given would be undermined by MA and that her needs would take precedence over WMA’s needs.

MA attended the hearing and accepted that WMA lacked capacity to decide where to live.  MA was strongly opposed to WMA living away from her.  When HHJ Cardinal met with WMA he stated unequivocally that he wanted to live permanently with his mother.  He did not like the amount of time that carers were attending and wanted less care and proper appointments.

The Court found that the local authority had been unable to provide appropriate care for WMA because of his refusal to accept it and MA’s interference.  There was concern about WMA’s isolation as WMA could not recall when he last went out anywhere.  The condition of the home had been deteriorating and there was a “plain history of neglect of WMA by his mother”.

The Court concluded that WMA could not make decisions as to his residence, his care plan and his contact with his mother.  Having established that he lacked capacity, the Court then went on to consider what was in his best interests.  The Court stated that “safeguarding concerns” were not the test – they were a factor to be weighed in the best interests decision.  HHJ Cardinal concluded that there was no doubt that it was in WMA’s best interests to move into supported living accommodation.  After finding that interference in MA’s private life was proportionate and necessary in the circumstances, the Court granted an authorisation for the deprivation of liberty.

In relation to the plans for transition the following additional orders were granted: a power for the local authority to enter the home if necessary; a power to the police to restrain WMA if necessary; an order that WMA be removed from his current home and taken to “B” where the local authority will have power to retain him if needs be; and the local authority will have the power to sign the tenancy agreement on his behalf.  The court also held that a protocol should be agreed between the police and the local authority.

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