What can I do as a carer?



If you find yourself caring for another person and you both feel that, if necessary, you should be able to take control of their affairs, you could suggest that they give you an enduring power of attorney (EPA). If they agree, you could then be legally responsible for dealing with their assets and financial interests. Without an EPA, you won't have the right to do this, even though you are acting as a carer. You can't, under any circumstances, force the person you care for to sign an EPA. They must willingly sign it and must be of sound mind to undertake it; otherwise it will be ruled invalid.

There may be a natural reluctance to pass over control of their affairs. You could ease their concerns by sharing information, such as the Law Society of NI leaflet

If it is not possible to draw up an enduring power of attorney

If the person you care for is unable to draw up an EPA (perhaps because they don't have the mental capacity to do so), you can apply to the Office of Care and Protection to be appointed as a controller. A controller is a person appointed by the OCP with ongoing legal authority to make decisions on behalf of another person who lacks capacity (known as a 'Patient'). For more information, see What is a controller?

Applying to the Office of Care and Protection

Within the High Court system, it is the Office of Care and Protection (OCP) that deals with the appointment of controllers. If the OCP is satisfied that there is a need for a controller to be appointed and has received medical evidence confirming incapacity, it will make an Order appointing a controller. This Order gives details of the specific powers conferred on the controller, which are usually quite limited. Additional Orders or authorities may be issued by the Court from time to time, varying or extending the controller's power.

In most cases, you will want to make decisions on an informal basis, rather than applying to the OCP. Where there is a disagreement, it's important to remember that the person you care for should be assumed to have capacity to make their own decisions, unless it can be shown that they lack capacity. This means that even if you don't agree with a decision of the person you care for, you must allow them to make that decision, unless it can be shown that they lack capacity to make that decision. You can, however, try to persuade the person you care for to see your point of view.