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New figures show a continued rise in the use of guardianship orders

27 September 2018

New figures published today by the Mental Welfare Commission show a continued rise in the use of guardianship orders in Scotland.

A report published today by the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland show that the use of guardianship orders, used to safeguard those who lack the capacity to make their own decisions, continues to rise.

The Commission monitors the use of welfare provisions of the Adults with Incapacity Act, and publishes reports on this data. Today's report includes information on the use of welfare guardianships across all of Scotland's local authorities.

The majority of guardians are private individuals, usually a relative, carer or friend. Local authorities have a duty to make an application for welfare guardianship where it is needed and no-one else is applying.

Of the total guardianships in Scotland, the majority are for people who either have learning disability (45%) or dementia/Alzheimer's disease (41%).

These are the main findings of the 2017-18 report:

  • The number of existing guardianship orders (13,501) has risen again, and is up by 12% since 2016-17 (12,082).
  • The number of new welfare guardianship applications granted also continues to rise. In 2017-18 there were 3,084 applications granted across Scotland, a 5% rise since 2016-17. This represents a 149% increase in the ten years since 2008-09.
  • Private applications represented 74% of all applications. The total number of private applications is up 4% this year, and up 165% in the ten years since 2008-09.
  • Local authority applications are up 10% to 792, and account for 26% of total applications.
  • A fifth (21%, 636) of welfare guardianship applications granted this year are for people in the 16-24 age group with learning disability.
  • Although the number of indefinite guardianship orders has decreased, there are 4,990 indefinite orders as of 31 March 2018. That represents 37% of total active guardianships (13,501).

Mike Diamond, Executive Director (Social Work) at the Mental Welfare Commission, said: "The continued steep rise in guardianship applications is concerning. Most relatives find guardianship helpful, but it is a complex legal process and takes up a considerable amount of time for care professionals, particularly mental health officers. Sometimes it is required to allow people to access Self-Directed Support, which gives greater control over their own care to people who receive services.

"We believe the law needs to be modernised and streamlined to ensure care can be provided when it is needed, and to better protect the rights of people with dementia and learning disabilities. We welcome the commitment of the Scottish Government to reforming the Adults with Incapacity Act, and look forward to working with them on this in the coming year."

The full report is available on the Commission's website here.

Note to editors

The Mental Welfare Commission monitors the use of legislation related to welfare provision, and parts of the law related to medical consent and research.

The Commission also publishes advice and good practice guidance on the operation of the legislation.

Indefinite guardianships are those that do not have an expiry date. The Commission has always suggested that orders be time-limited, especially for young people where circumstances may change. Indefinite guardianships should be reviewed regularly, in keeping with both the principles of the legislation and the Code of Practice. 

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