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Should a paid RPR consult with friends and family?

Weighing up a tough decision: Man sat thinking on sofa

A Relevant Person’s Representative (RPR) is an advocate assigned to a person who is under the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS). They are assigned by the Supervisory Authority to ensure the individual’s voice is upheld and supported while deprivations are in place. This includes the responsibility to raise a review and then a challenge if the relevant person is objecting to their care, treatment and/or placement.

Appointing a paid RPR

If the Best Interest Assessor (BIA) cannot identify a suitable family member or friend to assign the role of RPR, or the relevant person declines their assignment, then a paid RPR is to be assigned from the managing authority’s provider in line with best practice and guidance that a named individual must be provided. This ensures that the relevant person’s rights are respected and upheld, in line with legislation and best practice.

The BIA and the managing authority have a duty to consult all relevant parties during the DoLS application process, which includes explaining what a Deprivation of Liberty is, and the associated roles. This is an often under-recognised part of the BIA’s role, and one that is essential to ensure that care providers, professionals the relevant person and family/friends understand the process and how it will proceed.

The role of the RPR

In a typical case, the paid RPR will engage directly with the relevant person under DoLS, as well as the associated care providers, accessing relevant notes and records as necessary. This includes reporting back to the DoLS office and may also entail consulting a social worker if a care review request is needed or liaising with solicitors if the case is raised to the Court of Protection.

Throughout this process, it is good practice for a paid RPR to speak to multiple staff members at a placement, as well as other associated professionals in order to establish a full picture, especially if the relevant person is unable to express themselves fully.

Beyond this, a paid RPR is not required to liaise with the family or friends of the relevant person. This is because a paid RPR must keep to their assigned role and not cross into mediation, social work or another professional’s remit. It is important to remember that a paid RPR is the relevant person’s advocate only, working specifically around the DoLS, upholding their voice around the matter, following a set of clearly defined processes. There are also data protection issues that need to be taken into consideration.  

If family or friends have views on the relevant person’s care, treatment and/or placement, then they should share these views directly with the care provider, assigned social worker or other appropriate professional. It is not the paid RPR’s role to deal with these matters. It should be noted that they may be able to request their own non statutory advocate to support their voice in specific situations.

Where does this stand with raising an objection or challenge?

A paid RPR is under no direct obligations to inform specific parties of an objection or challenge to the relevant person’s care or treatment. Rather, their duty is to report any objection or challenge to the care provider and DoLS office only.

Given that family and friends are consulted during the DoLS authorisation process, they should have a basic understanding of DoLS, the assessment process and the rights of the relevant person. They should also be aware of what an objection to placement may present as and if their loved one may be expressing an objection. They should also be advised that an objection in itself does not necessarily mean the relevant person will lose their care provision or support – rather, it is intended as a safeguarding measure to ensure that appropriate checks and balances are in place to protect the individual.

It is down to the paid RPR’s own professional judgement (and associated information sharing policies) whether they directly update family or friends on the status of an objection or challenge. However, from my own experience, it is usually the case that the care provider or DoLS office will update family or friends if a review is going to occur, or if an objection is to be raised to a challenge in the Court of Protection.

It is recognised that every voice matters and inclusion is vital. Therefore, please note, that family are entitled to advocacy support in different circumstances, but in terms of consultation, context is vital for when and why an advocate consults which individuals.

Upcoming changes to legislation

Readers should note that Mental Capacity Act and associated code of practice are soon to change, with the launch of the new Liberty Protection Safeguards (LPS) replacing DoLS.

When these changes finally come into effect [1], the role of RPR will no longer be in place. Rather, an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA) will be assigned if no appropriate person can be identified / agree to represent the individual as an advocate for the individual whose liberty is being deprived.

We will of course release more blogs around the role of the IMCA as and when the relevant legislation comes into place.

[1]: As of the time of writing (October 2022), we are still awaiting an official start date for the new LPS.

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