Guardianships and Powers of Attorney are often primarily associated with the elderly, but this is far from accurate. The 2017/18 report by The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland (MWC) stated that one fifth of welfare guardianships granted that year were for people aged 16-24 with learning disabilities.
In Scotland, apart from driving and licensing laws, the Age of Legal Capacity is 16, meaning that when a child reaches this age, their parents may no longer make financial decisions on their behalf, or regarding their education, healthcare and accommodation. It is then necessary for the young adult to either make their own decisions or, if they have the capacity to understand what they are doing, grant a power of attorney.
I, together with some colleagues, have been working for a number of years with the charity, Contact (formerly known as Contact a Family), to explain to parents of children with additional support needs (ASN) what options are available when their children turn 16. This transition period can be an extremely stressful time for the whole family as it involves progressing from children’s services to adult services. School education may be coming to an end, further education or training decisions may have to be made and care packages may have to be set up or reviewed.
The legislation regulating the current systems of Guardianships – the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000 – contains five overarching principles, one of which is that the adult is to use existing skills and develop new ones. One aim of every parent is to ensure that in the future, where possible, their child will be able to live independently or have reduced support. As such, how this period in life is managed can have a huge impact. At this stage, the Scottish Government’s principle of ‘Getting it Right for Every Child’ is every bit as important as in earlier childhood.
Contact is currently running a Transition project to assist parents of children with ASN to negotiate this area and has just announced the first Scottish National Transitions Conference to be held in Glasgow on 13 March 2019.