'Court of Protection cost me £50,000'

By Fran Abrams
BBC File on 4

image captionNeil Barker has even renovated and sold a house despite a court saying he cannot manage his affairs

Neil Barker has no memories of the 35 days following a horrific motor bike crash which left him with brain injuries and needing his eye socket rebuilt.

Carrying out everyday activities became a struggle.

Even a basic task such as buying a tin of beans was a major challenge.

His family feared he would never be able to manage his money.

And under the Mental Capacity Act, a solicitor from the firm which dealt with his personal injury claims became his deputy - appointed by the Court of Protection to make financial decisions on his behalf.

When he won £1.7m compensation last year, the Court of Protection placed the pay-out in a court-controlled account.

However Neil, from West London, feels the court could have got him a better deal.

The IT engineer discovered that a bank where he was fixing a computer could have offered a return eight times more than he received in the court' s account.

"It's not being invested at all, I get half a percent. I've done careful calculations on this and they lost me a minimum of £50,000 in 18 months," he told BBC File on 4.


Legally, Neil is still not considered capable of managing his money. But he says he has made rapid progress.

He renovated a house which he sold for a profit and has now bought another that he is due to move into in two weeks.

Neil now wants to get the Court of Protection order removed so he can manage his own finances.

But to do that he needs to get reports from his doctors, and his deputy has refused to release money for the medical checks to be carried out.

He said the court would never approve that because he was last assessed by his doctors two years ago and it was unlikely there had been a sufficient improvement in his condition to warrant lifting the order.

"When I regained consciousness it was unlikely I would make a full recovery but I have," Neil said.

"I asked my deputy last August for a review and he told me the court would not give me the money for a review as I would have to see a consultant neurologist or psychologist.

"I always accepted the Court of Protection and could see why it was there. I was happy to have this protection.

"I thought it would be nice not to have to worry about money, that it would be like a bank account with added security. I didn't think for a minute it would be like this. The Court of Protection doesn't provide protection."

Low risk

Neil's deputy said he could not be interviewed by the BBC due to issues of client confidentiality and responsibilities to the client and the court.

File on 4 has discovered that financial assets totalling £3bn are in a court account - made up of the life savings of people suffering from dementia and other incapacitating diseases or from people who have received compensation pay-outs following accidents.

The Court of Protection was set up by the 2005 Mental Capacity Act to protect the financial interests of mentally incapable people.

The body responsible for managing this money is known as the Court Funds Office (CFO) and its role is "to provide a safe place for funds", the HM Court Service said.

"The majority of funds are held on behalf of clients who lack the legal capacity to manage their own financial affairs," it added.

"All interest rates carry a trade-off between risk and potential benefits. The CFO was established to hold and protect funds awarded by the court, not to be an investment fund that uses the market to try and increase the value of the sum held in court.

"The special account rate reflects the zero risk of a 100% government-backed guarantee on the level of funds.

"To offer a slightly higher interest rate that competes with the higher interest-paying accounts on the High Streets would mean making our clients' money more vulnerable to market forces."

The statement added: "It is also very important to note the majority of CFO's Court of Protection clients are able to remove funds from court.

"Most deputies will have an order from the Court of Protection allowing them to remove money at any time if they believe it is in the interest of the person who lacks capacity to do so."

File on 4 is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday 27 July at 2000 BST and repeated on Sunday 1 August, at 1700 BST. You can listen via BBC iPlayer or download the podcast.

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