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Mental Welfare Commission publishes report on visits to adults on guardianship

Publication date: 2 Oct, 2018

The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland today released a report on its visits to adults subject to guardianship. Guardianship orders are used to safeguard those who lack the capacity to make their own decisions.

The Commission monitors the use of welfare provisions of the Adults with Incapacity Act, and publishes reports on their use. In addition to monitoring at a statistical level, the Commission carries out visits to individuals subject to guardianship. These visits are targeted towards people where we identified issues in relation to possible use of restraint, seclusion, or deprivation of liberty.

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. If this happens, the chief social work officer is the welfare guardian.

In 2017-18 the Commission visited 291 adults on guardianship. In almost all cases (92%, 267) the two categories of assessment-care and treatment, and accommodation-were rated as adequate or good.

These were the main findings from the visits:

  • The Commission identified issues in 23% (67) of visits. The largest number of these concerns were around the suitability of the adult's placement (22%, 23) or the level and nature of activities available to them (22%, 23). These issues were discussed with the individuals and care managers, and followed up with reviewing teams where appropriate.
  • In 19% (54) of all cases, there was no clear evidence that the guardian had visited the adult in the last six months.
  • In half of private guardianships (93 of 187) there appeared to have been no recent visits by the local authority supervisor. These visits support guardians in properly using their powers.
  • On 11 visits, issues relating to Section 47 of the AWI Act and medication were raised as a cause for concern. Where an individual lacks the capacity to consent to medical treatment, the doctor must complete an s47 certificate before giving the treatment.

Mike Diamond, Executive Director (Social Work) at the Mental Welfare Commission, said:

"These visits are one of many ways the Commission works to safeguard the welfare of individuals subject to legislation in Scotland. This year we visited 291 individuals on guardianship, and we are pleased to say that the overwhelming majority are receiving a good or adequate standard of care.

"In the minority of cases where issues are identified, we followed this up with the individuals themselves and with care managers to resolve them. We would hope, in particular, that local authorities take note of their responsibility to visit and support guardians. This did not appear to have happened for half of the people we visited this year.

"The number of guardianship orders in Scotland is continuing to rise, as we highlighted last week, and we are concerned by this. 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."

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. 

Media enquiries: mwc.communications@nhs.net, 0131 313 8777