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VoiceAbility co-produced a film: Participation and Communication in The Court of Protection

19 November 2021

VoiceAbility worked with researchers at ICPR, Birkbeck School of Law to make a training film for specialist lawyers who work in the Court of Protection. Participation and Communication in The Court of Protection’ was developed by the Judging Values and Participation in Mental Capacity Law team alongside people employed by VoiceAbility’s Speak Out project in Cambridgeshire and the Experts by Experience project in Coventry and Warwickshire.

VoiceAbility’s Speak Out projects employ people with lived experience of a learning disability and/​or autism to help give others a say on all sorts of issues in their lives, and to influence decisions that affect them. A number of Speak Out and Experts by Experience employees co-produced the film with researchers, which will help lawyers better understand the perspectives of autistic people and people with learning disabilities, and improve how they plan for meetings. Using role-plays and roundtables with lawyers and people with learning disabilities and/​or autism, the film shows lawyers how to enhance communication and achieve better quality evidence for the court. 

VoiceAbility Speak Out Leader Sean Nightingale took part in the initial workshop where the charity brought together some of his colleagues and some family carers who are employed as Experts by Experience with some solicitors who work in the Court of Protection. The solicitors wanted to find out what is most important to people when meeting professionals who might be making big decisions about their lives. Sean was then involved in writing the script before starring in the film. 

He said that The film was about helping solicitors to support people with a learning disability or autism better. Being able to work and build trust with people with disabilities better than they might do already is really important, it may help people when solicitors are making decisions for them. If they can get to know the people themselves, it will help the person they are working with to trust them. If they get to know you and you feel you can trust them, it makes you feel you can talk to them. You need to trust them first.” 

His colleague Bill Jones talked about the importance of the training film: Any court is a scary place, especially for someone with a learning disability and/​or autism; it’s somewhere they’re not familiar with, somewhere they would not normally go. I felt it was important that we get across in the film that it can be scary, but not as scary as some people say it is and that you can have adjustments made if you need them. I hope it will make difference by giving people an idea of how solicitors and the Court of Protection work and that it will be okay once it’s over.” 

Speak Out’s Anne Hunt also appears in the film, and she discussed how Part of the film is about people with a learning disability and or autism making a decision about moving out, but their parents are against the idea and they can’t decide for themselves, so they need to get solicitors involved. This is important to me because I wanted to show that people can think for themselves.” 

Kate Bunting, the Speak Out Facilitator, said: We believe this [film] is a great example of co-production in action. We know that the best way to shape a service, or create a product, is to truly involve people with lived experience at every stage. After all, they are the experts in their own lives. It has been a real privilege to be involved in this project, which we believe will really improve people’s experiences with the Court of Protection.” 

Professor Jessica Jacobson, Director of ICPR, commented: This film, arising from the ground-breaking research project on mental capacity law, provides lawyers working in the Court of Protection with invaluable practical guidance and opportunities for reflection. It thus makes a substantial contribution to ICPR’s mission to inform and improve justice policy and practice through applied research.” 

Mat Culverhouse, partner at Irwin Mitchell solicitors and co-chair of the Court of Protection Practitioners’ Association, said: This film is an invaluable resource for Court of Protection practitioners at all levels, from those starting out in this field to those with many years of experience. This important project demonstrates the value of training based on rigorous research and learning from those with lived experience, and it is to be hoped that this video will be just the first of many future resources produced by the project team.” 

Andrew Spooner, Associate Solicitor, Head of Mental Capacity at Biscoes Solicitors said: The video is the most important video on technical practice I have ever seen. It really conveys how to improve communication with a protected party in the Court of Protection and I think it is going to revolutionise practice, thank you again.” 

Participation in Communication in the Court of Protection’ is an excellent example of people coming together to collaborate on a project to improve people’s experiences and achieve better communication. Those at VoiceAbility will be able to see the film at an online event for Speak Out Day on Friday 26 November, and it is also available to watch on YouTube.