Information for Community Service Workers

Do I need to apply for a substitute decision maker?

In order to apply for a substitute decision maker appointment, the case must meet the criteria set out in The Vulnerable Persons Living with a Mental Disability Act.  This means:

  • the adult with an intellectual disability in question is ‘vulnerable’ as defined in the act
  • the adult with an intellectual disability is not able to make decisions, or is not able to understand the consequences of a decision
  • a decision needs to be made
  • the person’s support network is not sufficient
  • there are no other options

In order for a substitute decision maker application to move forward, the above conditions must be met.

What is the role of supported (or assited) decision making?

Supported decision making is defined in the act as the process whereby a vulnerable person is enabled to make and communicate decisions with respect to personal care or his or her property and in which advice, support or assistance is provided to the vulnerable person by members of his or her support network.

Supported decision making is an important component of the lives of many vulnerable people.  It is an often informal arrangement that involves the individuals closest to the vulnerable person. A well-functioning supported decision making arrangement may serve all the person’s needs and prevent the need for a substitute decision maker appointment. 

It is important that Community Services Workers understand the role of supported decision making and a support network in the lives of the individuals they work with.

What is my role in the process?

Community Service Workers are often involved in applications for substitute decision maker appointments. This can include initiating an application where necessary, and supporting (or speaking against) an application brought by another person.

The Commissioner’s Office seeks Community Service Worker input to assess applications.  If an application was completed by a community or family member and does not include review and a signature by the Community Service Worker involved, a Preliminary Investigation Report is sent to the worker for their review.

If a matter is referred to a Hearing Panel, the panel will also frequently request the participation of the Community Service Worker. The panel will ask questions about the adult with an intellectual disability who is the subject of the application. They may ask questions from Community Service Workers about their knowledge of the individual, the proposed substitute decision maker, and their opinion on whether the application should move forward.

It is important for Community Service Workers to participate Hearing Panels prepared to discuss the specific details of the case at hand.  This is especially true where the Community Service Worker is the one who initiated the application.

What documentation and accounting processes are in place for a Substitute Decision Maker for property?

For more information about the obligations of substitute decision makers for property

For more information about oversight and reporting

If a substitute decision maker is required, when should caregivers begin the application process?

Applications may be made at any point after an individual reaches the age of 18. However, an application does not need to be made automatically at the age of 18, as the decision to appoint a substitute decision maker relies in part on whether a decision needs to be made.

When considering whether to apply for a substitute decision maker, caregivers should ask themselves the following questions:

  • Does a decision need to be made in the foreseeable future?
  • Will the decision be a one-off, or will regular decision making be needed on a predictable basis?
  • Is the person able to make the decision with the assistance of a support network?

If a decision needs to be made on an urgent basis, caregivers may consider applying for an emergency appointment.

Does the caregiver need to involve a lawyer?

The entire process, from application, to evaluation, to hearing panel and decision, may be completed without a lawyer. However, nothing prevents an individual from consulting with a lawyer.  

The creation of the Office of the Vulnerable Persons’ Commissioner was intended to remove such situations from the courts and place them in a less formal setting, while respecting the quasi-judicial of the Commissioner.

In general, what costs are involved? Filing, etc?

There are no costs involved with filing an application with the Office of the Vulnerable Persons Commissioner, or with any of the elements of the process to name a substitute decision maker.

If a person is seeking to become a substitute decision maker for property, there may be costs associated with seeking a bond or surety. This will depend on the value of the assets of the adult with an intellectual disability.  For more detail, consult this page.