Leaving Home – Mother Ordered to Respect Disabled Son’s Independence

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The wrench of a child leaving home is a tough experience for many parents and that can be particularly so when the child is disabled. However, as a Court of Protection case showed, not even parents are entitled to stand in the way of their offspring achieving as much independence as possible after they reach adulthood.

The case concerned a man with a mild learning disability who lived with his mother until he was in his mid-40s. He had been assessed as having the mental capacity to make many important decisions for himself. He was able to make his own choices in respect of contact with his family and, subject to local authority supervision, he had control over his own finances. He was able to enter into consensual sexual relations with his long-term girlfriend, who also had a mild learning disability.

Following earlier proceedings, a judge authorised his move from the family home into a supported living placement. According to the local authority, however, his mother had since persistently sought by various means to exert pressure and influence on him to secure his return home. In those circumstances, the council sought an interim injunction against her with a view to protecting his independence.

Ruling on the matter, the Court had the clear impression that the mother loved her son dearly and believed that her actions were justified. Contrary to the findings of social workers and psychologists, she retained a fundamental belief that he lacked the capacity to decide all but the most basic things for himself.

Profoundly mistrustful of the council and ever fearful for his safety in the community and in his intimate relationships, she was unswerving in her belief that she alone knew what was best for him. She ignored the views of professionals to the point where she firmly believed that they had ruined her son’s life.

The Court found that she had attempted to control and influence her son’s daily life and decisions in almost every respect, including where he goes, whom he sees and where he should live. In doing so, she had not made the transition from caring for a child to supporting an adult to make the best of his life. He had spoken at length about wanting to maintain his independence and have some direction and purpose in his life.

Upholding the council’s application, the Court ordered that he should remain in the placement, at least on an interim basis, and forbade his mother from, amongst other things, attempting to coerce or persuade him to return to the family home. She was also restrained from taking any steps to restrict or prevent his contact with his girlfriend.