New figures published by the Mental Welfare Commission show a rise of 12.5% in existing guardianship orders in Scotland, to 12,082 at March 2017.
These orders are granted by a court when a person does not have the capacity to make some or all decisions for themselves because of mental illness, learning disability, dementia or other conditions. Welfare guardians are usually a relative, carer or friend, who will make a private application.
- In 2016/17, 75% of all applications were private. The remaining 25% were made by local authorities.
- The number of new applications also rose, with 2,853 granted in 2016/17. This represents a 7% rise in one year, and a 114% rise since 2009/10.
- Forty four per cent of new applications were for people with dementia or alzheimer's disease, and forty three per cent were for people with learning disability.
- A fifth of all new applications were for people aged between 16 and 24 with learning disability.
The figures appear in a new report published by the Mental Welfare Commission. The report also gives a geographical breakdown in the use of welfare guardianship across the country, showing wide variations between local authority areas.
Mike Diamond, Executive Director (Social Work), Mental Welfare Commission, said: "Welfare guardianship can be very helpful for people who find they have responsibility for someone who does not have, or who no longer has, the capacity to make decisions of their own.
"So much so, that there has been a 135% rise in private applications in the last seven years.
"However, the process of awarding guardianship can be complex, and each application means the involvement of local authorities and sheriff courts.
"We, and others, have been working with the Scottish Government to call for reform of the law, and we understand that Ministers will issue a consultation on their proposals in the coming months. We welcome this."
Mike Diamond (pictured) also called on people to think about their own future, and consider creating a power of attorney should they ever become unable to manage their own affairs.
He said: "Given that almost half of new applications were for people with dementia or alzheimer's disease, I believe that all of us should consider the idea of creating a power of attorney. A power of attorney is planned when you are well and have capacity. The document allows you to make decisions on who can act on your behalf should you become unable to do so in the future".
A full copy of the report is available here.
Picture (c) BBC.