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Committees

The following is taken from the booklet entitled "Committees" and is the official booklet produced by the Office of Care and Protection, Royal Courts of Justice, Belfast.

Introduction


A "Committee" is the person who is appointed under Order issuing out of the Office of Care and Protection (hereinafter called "the Office") to manage the affairs of a patient who is considered incapable of managing his affairs by reason of mental disorder. The committee is normally one person closely related to the patient and he or she must be ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland. A Committee may consist of more than one person but in the following notes the appointee to the office of Committee is referred to in the masculine singular.

This handbook has been prepared with the object of providing the Committee with some general guidance on the powers and responsibilities entrusted to him. It is not possible, in the handbook, to cover all matters with which he will have to concern himself and occasions may arise where he will be called upon to deal with some which are outside its scope.

When the Committee is uncertain of his powers, or he is in doubt on any particular matter arising in connection with the committeeship, he should seek the help or direction of the Office.

All correspondence should be addressed to the Master (NOT to other individual officers of the Office) and should quote the full names of the patient and the reference number shown in the Letters issuing from the Office (e.g. 1976 No. 601). Without these details, there may be unavoidable delay. Committees who are in or near Belfast are invited to call at the Office if they wish to discuss their cases with a member of the Office. If possible an appointment should be arranged beforehand so that the officer concerned may be available.

There are of course occasions when it is essential for the Committee to have professional legal advice, and in all cases where he has been authorised to sell a house or land, solicitors should be instructed.

1. Powers of the Committee.
The powers of the Committee are strictly limited, and are clearly defined in the Order appointing him; but additional powers may be conferred upon him subsequently. The Committee must not exceed the powers so conferred upon him. For example, unless specifically authorised so to do, he must not:-

    (b) Vary the authorised allowances.
    (c) Make loans or gifts (including gratuities to hospital or nursing staff) or allowances to relatives or other persons (but see para. 6).
    (d) Grant leases or tenancies.
    (e) Pay debts owing before the Committeeship.
    (f) Pay Solicitors' costs before they have been allowed.
    (g) Interfere in any way with the Patient's investments.
    (h) Dispose of property by sale or otherwise.
    (i) Incur an overdraft.

In the absence of authority the Committee should seek the directions of the Office.

2. Houses and land.
The Committee may himself collect the rents and manage the property, or he may instruct qualified agents to do so. Whichever course is adopted, it is the Committee's duty:

    (a) To see that the property is maintained in a reasonable state of repair. Minor expenditure may be incurred in the ordinary course of management but if substantial work has to be carried out, or if the cost cannot be met out of income, the proposed expenditure must have the approval of the Office. competitive estimates will usually be required.
    (b) To see that buildings are insured for full replacement value and, whenever possible, that they are comprehensively covered.
    (c) To render maintenance claims for tax purposes (if applicable).
    (d) To report persistent rent arrears to the Office.

The Committee may suggest selling property if that would be to the Patient's advantage but, if a sale of the Patient's former home is contemplated, the possibility of the Patient becoming well enough to return to his home must be fully considered, or alternatively what other satisfactory arrangements can be made for his accommodation.

3. Investments

    (a) Offers of allotment, bonus issues, offers of purchase (whether conditional or unconditional), notices of liquidation and other questions affecting investments should be made known to the Office immediately (by forwarding the notices, circular letters etc.).
    At the same time the Committee should state his proposals and, if a payment from the estate is involved, whether there is sufficient surplus income available,
    (b) If a re-arrangement of investments seems desirable the Committee may submit his proposals for sale and reinvestment. Advice may be made available to the Office, usually free of charge, should it be required.

4. Maintenance allowances.

The allowances authorised by the Order appointing the Committee are designed to meet the circumstances at that time. Those circumstances may alter, for example:

    (a) Maintenance charges may change.
    (b) The Patient may show a greater appreciation of extra comforts or clothing.
    (c) Children or other dependants may become self-supporting,
    (d) A substantial change in the Patient's financial situation may take place.


The Committee should report at once and make proposals to meet the altered situation so that fresh directions may be given.
Where an allowance out of income or capital has been authorised for a limited period proposals for future allowances should be made at least one month before the end of the period.

5. Extra comforts and clothing.
The term "extra comforts" applies mainly to pocket money and those additional items - food, sweets, tobacco, flowers etc. - which are not normally supplied by hospitals or nursing homes without extra charge, but it can be regarded as covering almost everything of a nature which will lead to the Patient's increased comfort or enjoyment. The provision of clothing is not excluded but is usually mentioned specifically in the order or direction authorising allowances.
The Office will invite a Committee to consider the possibilities of the Patient enjoying an occasional holiday or a motor drive, and if a recommendation is made in favour, arrangements can be made to release the necessary funds. It is also possible that the Patient may enjoy radio or television programmes according to his particular taste in drama, music, sports, news etc., and if such be the case, the appropriate electronic equipment can be provided at his personal expense. Such equipment includes tape recorders, radio sets or record players (or music centres combining al three), or television sets or "talking books" and all or any of these may be furnished for the Patient's entertainment, if the Committee so recommends.
Hospital authorities will usually give helpful advice on all these matters and should always be consulted before food or sweets are provided (in case the medical treatment may be affected as for example in the case of a diabetic patient).
Even where the Committee makes frequent visits in order to supply extra comforts, the regular payment of a quarterly or half yearly sum of money to the hospital or nursing home authorities for extra comforts is recommended so as to ensure a continuous supply in the event of illness or some other reason interrupting the visits.
The committee is expected to take a personal interest in the Patient's welfare and to make proposals at any time for any improvement, which can be afforded, in the Patient's comfort and enjoyment (please see also under "Maintenance allowances")

6. Donations etc., for benefit of Patients.
The Patient may be in a hospital which has a fund, maintained wholly or in part by voluntary contributions, for the general benefit of the patients and the staff. Such funds are utilised in various ways but for the most part to provide little extras which the responsible Board of Health and Social Services cannot supply out of public or hospital funds, such as flowers in the wards and rooms, decorations at Christmas etc.
Where there is income surplus to the Patient's requirements the Committee may consider whether the circumstances warrant a donation from the Patient's funds and, if so, he should place his suggestions before the Office.
Some hospitals welcome annual fixed contributions to their funds and, if it is to the patient's advantage, the Office will consider authorising the committee in the name and on behalf of the Patient to execute a Deed of covenant. This would enable the Patient to obtain tax relief in respect of the sum covenanted to be paid to the hospital without affecting the amount ultimately to be received for the benefit of the fund.
If as not infrequently happens a patient of ample means is in a State Hospital it may be possible to have a more ambitious scheme for the expenditure of some of his income for the general benefit of the Patients. Inquiry of the hospital authorities may show that permanent equipment may be needed; new television sets, perhaps a piano or other musical instruments. Funds to provide car drives and holidays for patients may also be welcome.

7. National Insurance or Social Security Benefits..
Detailed information about the wide range and scales of such Benefits are obtainable from the leaflets issued by the Department of Health and Social Services which can be obtained from any local office of the Department. The following information has been selected because of its special importance in Committeeships:-

    (a) If the Patient is entitled to benefit, application for the benefit must be made at the earliest opportunity to the local office of the Department of Health and Social Services, otherwise there may be loss of benefit since payment is backdated only for specified periods before the date of the application and not necessarily to the date when the Patient became eligible for benefit.
    (b) After a patient has been in hospital as a Health Service Patient for a certain period, the scale of benefit is reduced in successive stages from the full rate (unless part of it is payable to a recognised dependant).

8. Social Security Contributions.

If the Patient is under the age at which retirement pensions become payable and is not already qualifying for such a pension (for example, by being credited with contributions while in receipt of sickness or invalidity benefit), the Committee should find out whether the Patient can qualify for a pension by paying contributions. If so and if the committee considers that it is in the best interests of the Patient, contributions should be paid, but, if benefit is dependent upon payment of substantial arrears, the directions of the Office must be obtained.
Advice generally, not only on the question of qualifying for pensions but also on the liability to pay contributions, can be obtained from the local office of the Department of Health and Social Services. Attention should also be drawn to Non-contributary Invalidity Pensions available to persons unfit for work and who have never paid, or paid insufficient, National Insurance or Social Security contributions.

9. Supplementary benefits.
Supplementary Benefits are payable on an assessment of a person's income and capital resources and vary according to the circumstances. The Benefits are reduced or may cease altogether when a person is admitted to hospital as a Health Service Patient.
If Supplementary Benefit is already payable at the date of the Order appointing a Committee, the Committee should apply immediately for payment to the local Area Office of the Supplementary Benefits Commission. If the Committee considers the Patient may be eligible for benefit, application should be made to the local Area Office and for this purpose the committee may give details of the Patient's means (notifying the Office that he has done so and later reporting the outcome of the application).
It is important to inform the Supplementary Benefits Commission immediately if there is any change in the financial circumstances in case any adjustment in the scale of Benefit is called for.

10. Residential Accommodation provided by a Board.
When a Patient is accommodated in one of these residential homes he may be required to pay the standard charge fixed by the Board or a lesser charge, based upon an assessment of his means by the Board.
When an assessment is made, a copy should be obtained from the Board and forwarded to the Office when appropriate directions for allowances for maintenance and extra comforts may be given.
In the event of a change in the Patient's financial circumstances, the Board must be notified so that, if necessary, a fresh assessment of means may be made.
Whatever the charge payable for accommodation, the provision of clothing, extra comforts and pocket money is considered to be an indispensable part of the financial arrangements and the allowances authorised by the Office make this provision the first consideration.

11. Additional fortune including Legacies and Shares in Estates.
If the Committee becomes aware that the Patient has become entitled to additional monies or other property for example, by reason of the death of a relative he should notify the Office immediately and supply such information as is available to him.

12. Income Tax.
The Committee is responsible for the Patient's Income Tax affairs - e.g. by making any necessary returns of income and by making claims for recovery of any overpaid tax including a maintenance claim (see under "Houses and land"). For this purpose all dividend counterfoils and other Income Tax vouchers must be preserved as they will be required by the Inspector of Taxes. If there is an accumulating fund in Court, certificates of deduction of tax may be obtained from the Accountant-General (see Funds in Court). If counterfoils and vouchers sent to the Inspector of Taxes have not been produced to the Office, the Inspector must be asked to return them since they will be required in connection with the Committeeship account.
If the Committee engages professional assistance reasonable and proper charges for the work done may be allowed by the Office.

13 Accounts.
The Committee should keep a separate Committeeship Banking Account opened in his own name "as Committee for ................" into which, as far as possible, all sums received should be paid and from which all payment should be made. The Committee is accountable to the Office and in most cases he will be called upon to render annually an account of his receipts and payment. Forms for this purpose will be supplied by the Office on application by the Committee. With the account should be sent the following:-

    1. Dividend counterfoils and any other vouchers for sums received.
    2. Rent accounts (where Agents are employed for collecting rents).
    3. Receipts for payments.
    4. Copies of Trustees' accounts where income is collected and distributed by Trustees.
    5. The passbook or statement relating to the Committeeship Bank Account.
    6. Passbooks or Bank books (made up to date) relating to any Building Society, Bank or National or Trustee Savings Bank accounts in the Patient's name.
    7. Transcript of funds in Court written up to date which may be obtained from the Accountant-General (see Funds in Court).

Receipts can be obtained for Payments to a hospital or a welfare or nursing home for pocket money and extra comforts but it is realised that it is not practical to produce receipts for extra comforts such as cigarettes, tobacco, confectionery etc. which have been supplied direct by the committee, and he will not normally be expected to account for such items in detail.
Where the Patient is living at home with his family, detailed accounts of expenditure on house-hold expenses are not usually expected, provided the Office is satisfied that the Patient is enjoying proper care and attention. If the Patient is the owner of the house, the receipts for payments for rates, taxes, insurance premiums, repairs and any mortgage repayments should be produced. In cases where a large establishment is maintained, more detailed information on household expenditure may be required, for example, books of account showing the wages and salaries paid to staff and the payments made in settlement of tradesmen's accounts. All available vouchers for the entries in the account books should be produced.
Where there is a business the instructions for keeping accounts in connection with the business will be found in the directions given in the Order.

14. Income surplus to requirements.
If, either at the time of passing his account or at any other time a Committee has a balance of income (say over 50) over and above the amount required to meet the current expenses of the year, after taking into account any further income to be received, he should apply to the Office for directions for investment giving his proposals if any. No money should be invested without the directions of the Office.

15. Funds in Court.
Interest and dividends on the funds in Court may be paid to the Committee or if desired direct to the Committeeship Bank Account. If the Order provides for an "accumulating fund" the interest is retained and re-invested by the Accountant-General.
The Committee may obtain information regarding the funds in Court from the Accountant-General, Royal Courts of Justice, Belfast BT1 3JF.

16. Accommodation and care and treatment of Patient.
These are matters where the Patient's own wishes, if he is capable of expressing them, must be considered in conjunction with those of his nearest relatives and the advice of his medical attendant.
Wherever a change is contemplated, it should not be effected without first notifying the Office of what is proposed. In particular, the financial aspect will need consideration by the Office, and fresh directions for maintenance and other allowances may have to be given.
If the Patient is not already in a hospital, nursing home or accommodation provided by a Board and it is considered that he needs the care and treatment given in one of these places, help and guidance may be obtained from the Patient's own doctor, or, if this is not practicable, from the District Administrative Officer of the Board.
The Patient's doctor, the Office or the District Administrative Officer should be consulted whenever the Committee feels in need of advice on any matter connected with the accommodation and care and treatment of the Patient.

17. Change of Address.
Every change of address of the Patient or the Committee must be reported to the Office without delay.

18. Recovery of the Patient.
If the Patient becomes capable of again managing and administering his own property and affairs he or the Committee should write to the Office and the necessary procedure will be explained.

19. Duration of Committeeship.
The powers of the Committee remain in force until an Order is made terminating the proceedings, and discharging the Committee, either upon the recovery or death of the patient.
Although the powers of the Committee are terminated in the circumstances mentioned he may still have certain duties to perform, for example, the presentation of a final account.

20. Death of a Patient.
If a patient dies, the funeral arrangements should be made by the persons proposing to take out Probate or a Grant of Representation to his estate, or by the next of kin in conjunction with such persons. To obtain the release of any assets controlled by or held subject to the directions of the Office, it will be necessary for the Committee or personal representatives to apply for a Final Order or for final directions. Details of the procedure may be obtained from the Office.

21. Percentage for Administration.
A fee called "percentage" is payable on the clear annual income of a patient whose estate is being administered by the Office.

The rates payable at the present time are as follows:-

    (a) where such clear annual income amounts to 500 or upwards a percentage of four pounds per cent per annum.

    (b) In all other cases a percentage of two pounds percent per annum.

The Office may remit or postpone the payment of the whole or part of any fee where in its opinion hardship might otherwise be caused to the Patient or his dependants or the circumstances are otherwise exceptional.

There are two methods of payment:-

    (a) Where there is a fund in Court the percentage is usually deducted by the Accountant-General from the interest on the fund.
    (b) By means of judicature stamps impressed on the form of certificate when received from the Office which contains full instructions for methods of payment.

All correspondence relating to percentage should be addressed to the Office and not to the Accountant-General.

22. Orders.
Copies of Orders impressed with the seal of the Office (known as "office copies") are official documents for production as evidence of the Committee's appointment and authority to exercise the powers specified in such Orders. Where an Order is made as a result of an application through the Personal Application Branch of the Office one of the office copies should be retained by the committee so long as his committeeship continues.
Where the application for an Order is made through Solicitors, a copy of the Order (marked "This copy is to be transmitted to the Committee and retained in his/her personal custody until further Order") is supplied for custody by the Committee, this copy must not be used for production as evidence of the Committee's authority to exercise the powers granted to him in the Order.

23. General Assistance.
In all cases of doubt or difficulty, the Committee, or if no Committee appointed, anyone interested in a matter relating to the property or income of a person suffering from mental disorder should consult the Office which will be glad to offer all possible assistance.

24. Correspondence.
All enquiries and correspondence should be addressed to -

The Master,
Office of Care and Protection,
Royal Courts of Justice,
BELFAST BT1 3JF.

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