Happy #InternationalWomensDay

It’s the 8th of March, which is International Women’s Day, and although we celebrate our rich diversity and inspirational team everyday, we take some time today to stop and recognise the  immeasurable contribution made by the Women of the world.

1918 – Contance Markiewicz – First Woman elected to British House of Commons.

1921 – Edith Wharton – First Woman to win Pulitzer Prize.

1928 – Amelia Earhart – First Woman to fly a plan across the Atlantic.

1973 – Sybil Phoenix – First Black Woman to be awarded a MBE (35 years later in 2008 she was awarded an OBE).

1976 – Mary Joy Langdon – First Woman to become a fire fighter in the UK.

1981 – Baroness young – First Woman leader of the House of Lords.

2006 – Margaret Beckett – First Woman to become Foreign Secretary for the UK.

2017 – Lady Hale – Appointed first Female President of the UK Supreme court.

These are but a mere snapshot of the endless contributions and advancements Women have made throughout our history. We asked a few of the inspirational Women in our own team to reflect on their careers and share their experiences.

Amy Roberts-Rees, Solicitor and Partner: Head of Mental Health Law and Court of Protection Department

Amy has been with CJCH solicitors for 5 years and has been instrumental in growing the Mental Health Law practice, and establishing our Court of Protection service line. When asked what her proudest achievement has been in her professional career, Amy said:

I’m proud to be recognised as one of the leading female solicitors in the area of mental health law in South Wales, as well as having become a partner at the age of 29 to the largest mental health law firm in South Wales. I established the court of protection for welfare department at CJCH Solicitors who now lead in the area for Court of protection cases in relation to Deprivation of Liberty (Dols) and welfare matters. I am also a panel accredited member recognised by the law society in the area of mental health law.

We asked Amy what advice she would give to the next generation of young Women seeking to join the legal profession:

Becoming a solicitor is an aspirational position to obtain, long hours and extensive time in progressing in the area of law you wish to specialise in involves hard work and determination. If you have qualities such as being ambitious, driven and most importantly passionate about your work, your career will flourish. In order to achieve in life you get out what you put in.

Jodi Winter: Solicitor and Partner: Head of Family, Matrimonial and Child care Law Department, and Partner in charge of our Barry office

Jodi’s career in law boasts an impressive array of achievements. She joined CJCH Solicitors in 2013, and prior to this spent 14 years in the Public Sector, with half this time as a Chief Legal Officer.

We asked Jodi what barriers she has had to overcome to achieve success:

Being a female from a working class family in the Rhondda Valley ( of which I am very proud), with an ambition of embarking on what was a predominantly middle class male profession was something that was discouraged by careers advisors at my school. I recall the careers  questionnaire that I completed in 1991 where I clearly set out my preferences to be a solicitor, produced the most suitable job match for me as a librarian! Fortunately, apart from that I have always been supported in my career by those who have managed me, worked with me and for me regardless of gender.

When asked what her proudest achievement was, Jodi jovially commented:

After years of hard graft, part time jobs, study and 30k worth of debt – being admitted to the Roll of Solicitors.

She went on to add:

The second followed on from  that by being made a Chief Legal Officer (in the public Sector) at the age of 28 and then at 38 being invited to join CJCH as partner

Lastly, when asked if she felt that Women have more opportunities within the legal industry now, Jodi said:

Absolutely – there are  more women entering the profession, more female partners and directors. Far more women Judges – after all 2017 saw  Baroness Hale’s appointment as the first Female President of the UK Supreme Court …. YAY!

Amy Palin, Paralegal: Blackwood office, Private Law and Conveyancing

Amy is a recent addition to CJCH having started at the firm in 2017 after completing the Legal Practice Course at Cardiff University. She began with us in our Cardiff office in the Anti-Piracy and Licence Compliance research team, and has since been moved to being a dedicated Paralegal in the Blackwood office on the path to being a trainee solicitor with the firm.

When asked what barriers she has had to face, Amy replied:

Thankfully I do not feel I have faced nor have had to overcome any barriers so far. I do feel that I am very early in my career, and this may be something that is encountered later, however I do not believe or worry that that would ever be something I would experience in CJCH. It is great to be able to work for a firm that clearly holds no prejudice, with so many women holding important positions in the firm, not only several partners but also a senior partner.

Advice Amy would give aspiring lawyers looking to enter the profession:

I would say to not believe it is a profession which is dominated by men, as it may have been in the past, as this is not the case anymore. I also believe it is important to remember that men and women may have different qualities to bring to the profession. I am sure many women have believed they weren’t as outspoken or assertive as their male colleagues and superiors, so would never progress, so think “why should I bother?”. No one should feel that they don’t have what it takes because they don’t fulfill the classic idea of a lawyer, the intimidating “shark” in the big office, that always knows best. I believe times are very different now and as well as considering yourself equal to males in your profession, you must consider yourself equal to your client, so any arrogance or believing yourself as superior is unlikely to be a positive quality for a promising career in law in the future.

Sally Perrett, Solicitor: Child care Law

Sally has been with CJCH Solicitors for two and a half years, and although she represents clients throughout South Wales, she is based in our Barry office. Sally acts, mainly, on behalf of parents in child care proceedings brought by the Local Authorities.

When asked what her proudest professional achievement was:

For me, this would have to be being accepted on to the Law Society Children Panel.

We asked Sally what advice she would give to women starting out in the field:

The Legal profession isn’t easy, however if you work hard the rewards will follow.

Lastly, in reply to whether she thinks Women now have more opportunities within the legal industry now, Sally said:

Yes definitely, there are more women than ever before in senior positions both within the private and public sector and the judiciary. However, they have worked incredibly hard  and made sacrifices both professionally and personally to be there. Hopefully in the future these sacrifices will not have to be so great.

 

We would like to thank each of our team members who contributed to this post, and wish a happy Women’s Day to all.

 

 

Fluctuating capacity and how to address future uncertainties of care planning in a section 21A appeal

By Emma Sutton (instructed on behalf of MB) and Rebecca Evan-Williams (CJCH Solicitors). Re-post of article from No5 Barristers Chambers.

31 January 2018

Background

The court had before it an application brought on behalf of MB pursuant to section 21A of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (‘the Act’) by his RPR, Mrs Claire Reid, to challenge a standard authorisation made in accordance with schedule A1 of that Act; the primary challenges being whether the mental capacity and best interests qualifying requirements were met. So far, so good.

MB had resided in a care home since 2008 and had a diagnosis of moderate learning disability, autism spectrum disorder and complex epilepsy and as a consequence of his diagnoses, required close supervision of daily living and prompting from his carers.

Due to the complexities of MB’s presentation, a number of expert reports were necessary to assist the court to resolve the proceedings and a position was reached whereby the capacity evidence prepared by Dr Michael Layton (Consultant Psychiatrist) and Dr Lisa Rippon (Consultant Developmental Psychiatrist), and their jointly prepared statement, was accepted by the parties. The expert evidence unanimously concluded that MB had the capacity to make decisions regarding his residence and care needs, but lacked the capacity to conduct the proceedings.

By reason of the above, the court accepted that it had no jurisdiction to make best interest decisions regarding MB’s residence and care; notwithstanding his requests to leave his care home and move to alternative accommodation. The court determined (per section 21A(2)(a) and section 21A(3)(a) of the Act) that MB did not meet all of the necessary qualifying requirements in order for a standard authorisation to be in place (the mental capacity qualifying requirement not being met), and on such basis, the standard authorisaation was terminated with immediate effect.

Comment

Mrs Reid, as MB’s litigation friend, fully recognised that MB would (as a consequence of the expert evidence) effectively be removed from the procedural safeguards contained in schedule A1 of the Act. Her status as RPR would also end upon the termination of the standard authorisation.

Although his ‘appeal’ had been successful, careful consideration had to be given prior to the final hearing as to whether the case fell into the ambit where ‘contingent’ capacity decisions were appropriate. The Court of Protection Practice helpfully provides a template order [see pages 2362-2364 of the 2017 edition] for such circumstances and this was brought to the courts attention. However, on the facts of this particular case, it was accepted that there was no identifiable external trigger which would ‘cause’ a loss of capacity – for example, another person who unduly influences P, P resorting to alcohol use, capacity being dependent on a continuance of training/ advice etc.

Instead, MB’s fluctuation of capacity was intrinsically linked to his own inherent complex functioning and could not be put into a prescribed ‘box’ of when he would and wouldn’t have the ability to make capacitous decisions. In this regard, the experts said this:

Both Dr Rippon and Dr Leighton agreed that MB’s capacity could fluctuate during times of seizure activity but also when his level of anxiety rises and he becomes distressed because of environmental triggers. It was Dr Leighton’s view that these periods could last for several days and he gave the example of the time that MB had become angry with his RPR and had refused to see her for a week. However, what is less clear is whether his capacity was affected over the whole of this period. Therefore, although both doctors agreed that MB’s capacity had fluctuated, what is less certain is how long these periods could last(my emphasis)

As MB’s care plan had (for the past 10 years) met his complex needs, and due to the lack of specificity regarding whether and if so, for how long, seizure activity could potentially impact on his decision making, it was not considered appropriate for further exploration to be given to this issue – particularly as the ongoing nature of the proceedings was having an impact on MB.

A further point that required consideration was whether the appointment of an independent advocate (within the meaning of section 67 of the Care Act 2014) to represent and support MB for the purpose of any future needs assessment and the preparation of a care and support plan (etc) was necessary.

This was raised on behalf of MB which HHJ Parry addresses in her Judgment (with reference to the Care and Support (Independent Advocacy Support) (Number 2) Regulations 2014) and emphasised that the order would record ‘the Local Authority’s willingness and indeed, in my view, obligation to consider this ongoing additional support for MB in the decisions that he will now be making on his own behalf’.

Although set out in a recital (which is positive for reference as to the ‘reasonableness’ of future actions) this ultimately relates to a primary issue that the powers of the court do not extend to decisions compelling parties to provide services for P (N (Appellant) v ACCG and others (Respondents) [2017] UKSC 22, Baroness Hale, paragraph 29).

 

 

Emma Sutton was instructed by Rebecca Evan-Williams and Amy Rees-Roberts (Partner) of CJCH Solicitors (Cardiff) on behalf of MB

Claire Reid is a professional RPR and Project Lead for Training in Mind

Mental Health law: Support, resources, and insights.

We have come a long way in terms of awareness and support, but Mental Health matters continue to have a stigma and an air of uncertainty overshadowing them. For example, a 2016 survey by Time to Change Wales revealed that 1 in 10 people believe that people with mental health illnesses can never fully recover, and 1 in 7 believed that people with mental health problems should not be allowed to hold public office. People still have reservations about speaking openly and honestly about their personal mental health experiences and challenges.

In a bid to raise awareness, the CJCH Solicitors mental health department have shared insight into some of the information we believe people should be aware of when it comes to mental health law.

We asked Craig Mills, a solicitor in the mental health law department to answer a few important questions:

What the aim of mental health law is?

The Mental Health Act protects the rights of people with mental health challenges, not only when someone is detained in hospital but also when someone is being treated for their ailments within the community under the Act. People should only be admitted to hospital against their wishes when it is essential to their health and safety or the protection of others.

What should people be aware of when it comes to matters relating to mental health?

Personal rights are an important thing for people to be aware of. There has been a lot of mental health advocacy recently and people need to be aware that it can affect individuals in a number of different ways  (Read a recent article in BBC News on South Wales Police wanting mental health lessons for youths). It can sometimes be difficult to identify when/if people are suffering from mental health problems, but it is important that everyone is aware that help is available. There are a number of mental health charities that can provide support.

Here are some links to assist with finding the right support for you or your loved ones:

For an example of how these matters are impacting people in Wales, you can read this recent article about three people’s personal struggle with mental illness which was shared for World Mental Health day.

For more information or assistance with a mental health legal issue, contact our team via email: mentalhealth@cjch.co.uk ; to telephone: 0333 231 6405.

Reflection on Mental Health Awareness Week with a look to the future.

By Keith James, Solicitor/Partner

Last week, 8 to 14 May 2017, marked UK Mental Health Awareness week for 2017. The purpose of this annual event is to ‘prompt a national conversation about what we can do as communities, schools, families and individuals ‘to move from surviving to thriving’ (The Mental health foundation).

There is little doubt that in recent months awareness of the wide variety of mental health conditions and of the impact of mental health problems has grown and now appears to be rising up the political agenda.

High profile individuals who have experienced the impact of issues such as depression, including prominent figures in the football world, have helped to shine a light on how mental health problems can impact on the lives of everyday people – Mental Health issues do not discriminate.

Also in the news have been many stories from prominent individuals of how bereavement can impact on families and how help can be provided to families to talk through these issues.

Of particular current interest is how the result of the general election will impact on Mental Health Law and the provision of Mental Health Services. Already suggestions have been made of manifesto commitments to increase provision of community mental health staff and services but also a suggestion that the Mental Health Act should be replaced. This perhaps is the most intriguing suggestion.

The Mental Health Charity, Mind, has called for a review of the Mental health Act but there is a suggestion this could go further to avoid ‘unnecessary detentions’. It will certainly be interesting, during the General Election campaign, to see if this forms part of a manifesto commitment. Of particular interest will be what alternative proposals are suggested.

There is little doubt that Mental Health issues have risen up the political agenda, and for CJCH will continue to be an important part of our focus and drive to support our community.

For any questions or queries, please do not hesitate to contact our Mental Health and Mental Capacity Law team at mentalhealth@cjch.co.uk or call on +44 333 231 6405 (24 hour emergency line: +44 7967 305949)

Engage with us on Facebook, twitter or LinkedIn.

CJCH Mental Health Department and Mental Health Reforms

Senior Solicitor Keith James from our Mental Health Department tells us about the department and gives insights on Mental Health reforms.CJCH Solicitors have the largest Mental Health Law department in South Wales. We also have a contract to conduct work in the South West. The work involves many challenges including assisting vulnerable clients on a daily basis. We represent clients throughout South Wales and the South West at around 56 hospitals and units. What often strikes us is the lack of understanding in the community and amongst the general public about mental health. Recently, Prime Minster Theresa May gave a keynote speech identifying the need for reforms which particularly focus on young people and their mental health needs.

The Prime Minster was particularly keen that institutions should tackle the stigma around mental health with a focus on children and young people. Additional training for teachers, an extra £15m for Community Care and improved support in the workplace were measures announced by May in her speech.

Theresa May gives speech on Mental Health reforms

One in four people at some point in their lives are believed to have a mental disorder and the cost to the country is believed to be around £105 billion per year. The focus on young people is particularly relevant as half of all mental health problems are believed to start by the age of 14 and 75% by 18. May said she felt mental health had been “dangerously disregarded”.

As part of the reforms all secondary schools will be offered mental health first aid and training. There will be a review of improving support in the workplace and attempts to strengthen links between schools and NHS Specialists.  Staff, employers and organisations will be given training to support staff amongst various other changes. The focus is to raise the profile of mental health and try to achieve true “parity of esteem” with physical health.

To get in touch with our highly experienced Mental Health team please contact healthlaw@cjch.co.uk