A LAW firm has seen an increase in the numbers of people looking for legal help for the rights of people being kept in care against their will.

The elderly, those with learning disabilities or people with brain-related impairments who have lost capacity and need to be looked after may find themselves put into residential care on the advice of doctors and other professionals, or by family members, and deprived of their liberty.

Specialist solicitors within the Court of Protection department at regional practice BHP Law, which is led by partner Karen Pratt, are seeing an increase in clients seeking support in relation to both property and finance, and their health and care needs.

Some may have to live somewhere they do not wish to, or be subject to restrictions they don't agree with, such as not being allowed to see certain people, not being free to go out without support or being prevented from using social media.

Any deprivation of a person’s liberty must be lawfully authorised and can be challenged in the Court of Protection.

BHP's health and welfare team has grown rapidly in the last six months to handle the number of new cases.

Partner Stephen Williams, who leads the health and welfare team, says it has successfully challenged deprivation of liberty in care homes enabling people to return home, been successful in getting clients moved to more suitable accommodation and overturned assessments indicating that a person lacked capacity to make their own decisions.

Associate Sapna Tugby, who recently joined the team, said: “People have statutory rights. They must have an advocate and if they wish to bring a case they should engage a specialist solicitor who can bring their case to court.

Sapna, who studied medicine as well as being a qualified lawyer, added: “There are a lot of people who are deprived of their liberty, either in their own homes, in care homes or supported living arrangements.

“In terms of numbers we are just scratching the surface at present. There are a lot of people out there who we don’t yet know about and who may not know their legal rights to challenge their deprivation of liberty.

“Any decision to deprive someone of their liberty must have been taken in their ‘best interests’ and it may be a ‘temporary’ arrangement. However, every person deprived still has wishes and feelings that must be taken into account.”

Solicitors at BHP Law, which has offices in Darlington, Stockton, Durham, Newcastle and Tynemouth, also provide an independent advice and advocacy service to care homes providers.