Many people who are diagnosed with autism are still able to live independently – for example, applying for jobs, opening their own bank accounts, having an income and settling their own bills.
Unfortunately, complete financial independence is not always possible, and occasionally there are individuals who live with autism that are unable to look after their own property and financial affairs. In these circumstances, it would not be unusual for a parent of an autistic child to continue to support them into adulthood. However, if the parent becomes vulnerable themselves, perhaps through old age or a mental health condition, difficulties can arise for both parent and child.
In 2018, Lauren McGurk, Senior Associate, was contacted by an older and fragile client who we will call ‘Joan’. At the time, Joan had been admitted into hospital after being found in poor conditions at home. Joan instructed our Older and Vulnerable People (OVP) team to manage her property and financial affairs under a lasting power of attorney going forward. We successfully undertook this role until Joan’s death a couple of years ago.
Joan was a mother to an adult, who we will call ‘Peter’, with learning difficulties and she had been his sole supporter of his financial affairs for all his 50 years.
Peter and Joan had been living in a bungalow together. The bungalow was a fire hazard and unfit for occupation. While Joan was admitted into hospital, Peter was placed by the local authority into a supported living environment.
The local authority soon realised that Peter had no benefits, no assets and not even a bank account in his own name. He did not have a passport nor any further formal ID except a birth certificate.
Joan was too poorly to continue to be Peter’s financial supporter and, as we already had a relationship with the family, the local authority asked our team to take on the management of Peter’s financial affairs going forward. This involved an application to the Court of Protection for deputyship.
Now that we are in receipt of the Deputyship Order, the OVP team has been working closely with Peter, the Department of Work and Pensions, the local authority and banks to enable Peter to live in suitable accommodation, receive all benefits he is entitled to and have money that is entirely his.
Lauren said: “We are so pleased for this positive outcome for Peter. The OVP team will continue to support Peter and be involved in his financial affairs under the Deputyship Order for the rest of his life, or until such time that the Deputyship Order is discharged.”