What is a Relevant Person’s Representative (RPR)?
The Mental Capacity Act (MCA) 2005 states that once a standard authorisation under the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLs) has been approved the supervisory body (NHS body or local authority) must appoint a relevant person’s representative (RPR) as soon as possible and practical to represent the person who has been deprived of their liberty.
The role of the RPR is to maintain contact with the relevant person, and to represent and support the relevant person in all matters relating to the deprivation of liberty safeguards. Including, if appropriate, triggering a review, using an organisation’s complaints procedure on the person’s behalf or making an application to the Court of Protection.
The RPR has an important role in the deprivation of liberty process. They represent the relevant person and provide support that is independent of the commissioners and providers of the services they are receiving.
Once an authorisation is approved, the managing authority (hospital or care home) must ensure that the relevant person and their representative understand:
- the effect of the authorisation
- their right to request a review
- the formal and informal complaints procedures that are available to them
- their right to make an application to the Court of Protection to seek variation or termination of the authorisation
- their right, where the relevant person does not have a paid ‘professional’ representative, to request the support of an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA)
RPRs must have regular, face-to-face contact with the person being deprived of their liberty, to ensure that their interests are being safeguarded. This means that the hospital or care home where the person is staying (the managing authority) should allow you to visit them at reasonable times. As the RPR, your name should be recorded in the person’s health and social care records. If you have insufﬁcient contact with the relevant person for whatever reason, they may not have full opportunities to have their case reviewed or to appeal against their deprivation of liberty to the Court of Protection.
There are certain rules guiding who can be an RPR. To be eligible you must be:
- 18 years of age or over
- able to keep in contact with the relevant person
- willing to be appointed.
You must not be:
- ﬁnancially interested in the hospital or care home where the relevant person is being deprived of their liberty, or be a relative of a person who has a ﬁnancial interest
- employed by, or providing services to, the care home in which the relevant person is residing or employed by the hospital in which the relevant person is residing in a role that is, or could be, related to their treatment or care
- employed to work in the relevant person’s supervisory body in a role that is, or could be, related to the relevant person’s case.
As an RPR, you have a legal duty to comply with the Mental Capacity Act Code of Practice.
A person who is being deprived of their liberty is in a particularly vulnerable position during any gaps in the appointment of the RPR, since there may be nobody to represent their interests or to apply for a review on their behalf. In these circumstances, if there is nobody who can support and represent the person (other than a paid member of staff providing care and treatment) the managing authority must notify the supervisory body, who must instruct an IMCA (paid RPR) to represent the relevant person until a new representative is appointed. In these circumstances the role of the IMCA is essentially the same as that of the RPR. The IMCA’s appointment ends when the new RPR is appointed.
Both the person who is deprived of liberty under a standard authorisation and their representative have a statutory right of access to an IMCA. It is the responsibility of the supervisory body to instruct an IMCA if the relevant person or their representative requests one. The intention is to provide extra support to the relevant person or a family member or friend acting as their representative if they need it, and to help them make use of the review process or access the Court of Protection safeguards.
The role of the IMCA is to help represent the relevant person and, in particular, to assist the relevant person and their representative to understand the effect of the authorisation, what it means, why it has been given, why the relevant person meets the criteria for authorisation, how long it will last, any conditions to which the authorisation is subject and how to trigger a review or challenge in the Court of Protection. The IMCA can also provide support with a review or with an application to the Court of Protection, for example to help the person to communicate their views.
Section 39 of the amended MCA 2005 sets out the different IMCA roles involved in supporting and representing people who may be subject to the DoLs. Under each role an IMCA is instructed for a different reason and has different rights and responsibilities. To summarise, the roles are:
Section 39A IMCAs - instructed when there is an assessment in response to a request for a standard authorisation, or a concern about a potentially unauthorised deprivation of liberty.
Section 39C IMCAs - cover the role of the relevant person’s representative when there is a gap between appointments.
Section 39D IMCAs - support the person, or their relevant person’s representative, when a standard authorisation is in place.