The purpose of guardianship is to enable patients with mental health needs to receive community care within an authoritative framework. That framework should provide a minimum of constraint to allow the patient to achieve as independent a life as possible within the community, and lessen the risk of hospital re-admission.
The guardian has the power to require the person subject to the order to reside at a specified place, to attend specific places at specific times for the purpose of medical treatment, occupation, education or training, and to give access to the place where that person resides to any medical practitioner, Approved Mental Health Professional or other person specified by the guardian.
As such, with the exception of the power to take and retake a patient to the place they are required to live, the powers of the guardian are not capable of enforcement but rely on the co-operation of the patient and can be seen as an effective community resource and form of aftercare.
Guardianship can be applied to persons over sixteen years old who have a mental disorder, and where it is necessary in the interests of the welfare of the person and for the protection of others.
The guardian can be a local authority or a nominated private person. Application is made by the nearest relative or an Approved Mental Health Professional with the support of two medical recommendations.
The patient must be told about the Independent Mental Health Advocacy (IMHA) service and can be assisted to access IMHA.