Fife advocacy service helps unpaid carers understand importance of appointing a power of attorney

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A team of independent advocates is helping support unpaid carers in Fife by highlighting the importance of having a power of attorney (PoA) in place.

This ensures that carers have the legal powers they need to make health decisions in the event the person that they care for is unable to.

Circles Network, which is based in Lochgelly, is offering the free service to help carers to navigate these complex legal issues by ensuring that they are prepared should their circumstances, or the person that they care for change.

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Funded by Fife Health and Social Care Partnership, it aims to assist carers to take control of their caring situation and to ensure the best possible outcome.

The Circles Network team from left to right, lead advocate, Annmarie Pocock, with advocates, Sarah McIntyre and Sajada Noreen.The Circles Network team from left to right, lead advocate, Annmarie Pocock, with advocates, Sarah McIntyre and Sajada Noreen.
The Circles Network team from left to right, lead advocate, Annmarie Pocock, with advocates, Sarah McIntyre and Sajada Noreen.
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Having a PoA allows you plan what you want another person to do for you in the future should you become incapable of making decisions about your own affairs.

It details the names of the people, known as attorneys, who you want to help you and lists the individual powers that you want them to have as well as stating when they can start acting.

The project also assists carers who find themselves in a situation where, due to not having a PoA in place, a guardianship order is required.

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For example, if your loved one needs to go into hospital and then, due to their health deteriorating, are unable to return home Circles Network advocates can support carers to navigate the process meaning that a suitable legal guardian is appointed as quickly as possible.

Annmarie Pocock, lead advocate, said: “Our project does not have a waiting list and is completely free. After an initial phone call, and if the carer wants, we can arrange to meet with them at a location of their choice.

"We can also support carers in a number of ways to access legal advice, be there when they first meet with a solicitor and support them through the process."

Annmarie said that unpaid carers should think about appointing a PoA sooner rather than later as difficulties may arise later if it is put off for too long.

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"Unpaid carers and the people that they care for may want to consider the benefits,” she said. “They can support the cared for person with their finances straight away, and their care needs in the future should they lose their capacity to make decisions.

"Parent carers often do not know that when their child reaches the age of 16 they are lawfully considered an adult and can therefore make their own decisions until they are officially deemed to lack capacity – this can cause difficulties with schools, health professionals, or social work.

"Carers who look after family members also may not notice that their loved ones may be in the early stages of dementia, and when they do, it may be too late for a PoA to be appointed – young carers should also be made aware of the need for legal powers.”

Annmarie added: “When a cared for person is making the PoA document it is important that they state their wishes in regards to their future care needs whilst still having capacity.

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"A person’s past wishes will be taken into account if the attorney has to make decisions on their behalf in the future.”

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