Mailbox: Costly process to be appointed as deputy for mentally disabled child

Mailbox: Costly process to be appointed as deputy for mentally disabled child

I am the father of an autistic adult who has never had the mental capacity to make decisions on matters of finance or welfare.

Under the Mental Capacity Act, I need to be appointed by the court as a "deputy" to act for her.

The website of the Office of the Public Guardian advises people who wish to be appointed as deputies to seek legal assistance.

So I went to a modest-looking law firm in an HDB estate, and was quoted a minimum fee of $10,000 plus expenses.

I was expecting to pay no more than a few hundred dollars as I was simply doing what the authorities required.

I do not blame the lawyers as this is something quite new and they may not be familiar with the filing process.

My child had been diagnosed with autism at the age of three. She has no earning capacity and no assets in her name. I have always acted as her "deputy" in all matters, down to the colour of her socks.

It is something I have always done naturally and dutifully as a parent. But I am now being asked to pay a tidy sum for the right to continue to make decisions on her welfare.

The Act must be amended to provide for parents and siblings of people who have entered adulthood without ever having attained mental capacity, to be automatically recognised as their deputies.

Can the Office of the Public Guardian assign legal officers to assist parents like me?

A well-intended piece of legislation should not cause additional hardship for people struggling to care for severely disabled children.

John Yeo Kee Chiang

This article was published on Sept 4 in The Straits Times.

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