Elaine Bermitz meets Len Goldstone, a Lord Chancellor’s Visitor, who talks through the prominent and important role he plays in society.
At 71 Len Goldstone leads a very busy life. For the last 15 years he has been responsible for protecting the interests of those who cannot look after themselves and who, in the words of the Passover Seder, ‘do not know how to ask’. Like the father at the Seder he must think what they need and ensure that they are provided with it.
As one of only 50 Lord Chancellor’s Visitors in England he works six days a week visiting people responsible for the care and protection of those vulnerable people who have given over Power of Attorney to someone they trust, or for those who are unable to sign power over. He provides independent advice to The Public Guardian and the Court of Protection to prevent the misuse of these powers.
Len, a Professor of Applied Statistics, took early retirement from his position as dean of London South Bank University and that of the regional director of the Open University due to ill health and a desire to cut down on the travel from his beloved Leeds. On recovery he decided to take the post of Lord Chancellor’s Visitor for one day a week. 15 years later he moved to Manchester – his wife’s home town – and works six days a week, travelling all over the north of England and Wales.
The people who need his assistance range from those who have donated Power of Attorney to a trusted relative, to those who are totally incapacitated and unable to even comprehend their needs.
“I visit those who care for people from nine months to 109 years old – though actually my oldest client so far has been a mere 103! Where a person holds Power of Attorney I only visit if someone is worried that the power is being abused,” Len said.
“However, where a deputy is appointed by the courts the client will be totally incapacitated and so much more vulnerable. I have to visit them regularly whether or not there are any irregularities.”
A deputy has many responsibilities – to look after the client’s needs appropriately, acting in their best interests and also to keep financial records, bank statements and documentation of health records, care management plans etc.
“I have the right of access to any documents concerning the client and can interview them alone so that, if able, they may speak about the care they are receiving. I can make recommendations to the court and, if there is good reason, the judge can revoke the Deputyship Order or Power of Attorney. I can’t act alone, but the courts will rely on my recommendations and they can act very quickly if necessary.”
Len acknowledged that around five per cent of cases cause concern – 25 per cent need guidance, some for a long time, and 70 per cent cause no concern.
“When you think that the client may be someone extremely elderly, a dementia, or stroke victim, or that of an industrial or medical accident, or a baby starved of oxygen at birth, you can see that the amounts of compensation may be huge, the responsibility is long term and very daunting,” he said.
“It’s a very responsible job and stressful, but very enjoyable. A lot of it is about teaching, supporting and directing people to the right place for help and the teacher in me loves that.”
Len added: “It can be dangerous. I sometimes see people with a violent past, or serious psychiatric problems, but I have a login/ log out system with my office and the police as a safeguard. It’s a job little known about in the wider public but what started out as a way to pass the time has become truly fulfilling.”
Surprisingly Len does have time for other interests. He goes to the gym regularly and enjoys weight training. He is also a member of the Association of Jewish Healers and a trained Reiki practitioner. “In my spare time”, he adds. “When not visiting grandchildren in Israel I am writing a book on the history of massage.” No time then for a relaxing retirement!