Talking about tomorrow


Guardianship – a parent’s experience

Karen’s son is 18. She was granted guardianship for both finance and health and welfare

“The first thing to be aware of is how long and drawn out the process is. We were told that beforehand, and the lawyer kept us informed, but it still felt a long time.

I’d sat in on Zoom sessions on guardianship and I had notes to refer back to, so I didn’t come to it cold, but there were still things we weren’t really prepared for.

We started 6 months before my son’s 16th birthday, so it was during the backlog after Covid and we got caught up in the system. And to be fair, part of the problem was down to us: there was lots of paperwork, it wasn’t easy to understand, and you tend to push it to one side. Formal paperwork isn’t going to be a priority when there’s too much else you have to think about.

The lawyers chased us eventually, but it meant things took more time than we thought.

We chose a lawyer with a good reputation locally for guardianship applications, and they started by suggesting we apply for health and welfare powers as well as finance. We made a change to the standard application, by adding in lines that gave us the right to access what my son watches and restrain him in certain circumstances to keep him safe.

The process was pretty straightforward. The Mental Health Officer met my son at home first, then visited school to see him there. Two people, I think consultant psychologists, assessed him over Zoom to prepare their reports. That was OK for us, but I’m not sure how well it would work for someone who doesn’t have my son’s level of functioning.

I thought once guardianship had been granted that would be it wrapped up, but I was surprised there was still so much to do. Everything had to go through the Office of the Public Guardian, which took more time. And it will have to be reviewed in 3 years.

We have to keep records and audits for everything so we can account for how we spend his money and the decisions we take. I’m not sure people are always prepared for that.

Having the right powers has been useful, as my son needed a hospital procedure a few weeks ago and they asked if we had health and welfare – without it, we couldn’t have been involved in his treatment and care.

But I was surprised it proved so hard to register my guardianship with the bank. They couldn’t take the papers in person at the branch, it had to be done online or by phone, and when I called I was told I didn’t have the right powers. I went back to the lawyer, who assured me the bank was mistaken. The next member of staff I spoke to accepted it without question.

It’s not exactly unusual – so you’d have thought customer service staff should be aware.”


Top tips

  • Ask for recommendations before choosing a solicitor. Other parents know if they’ve had good service
  • Always ask what things will cost. Some firms charge for conversations, phone calls and emails
  • Before you start, think about what you need to be able to do for your young person
  • Make sure you apply for all the powers you need
  • Ask someone else to check the paperwork with you. Legal language can be hard to understand