Step forward to online lasting power of attorneys
19 Sep 2023 02:10 PM
The most vulnerable in society will be better protected as reforms to simplify and streamline lasting powers of attorney are given Royal Assent.
- Powers of Attorney Act receives Royal Assent
- creates new safeguards to protect against fraud and abuse
- digitalisation to improve processing time and reduce human error
These legal agreements enable a person to grant decision making powers about their care, treatment or financial affairs to another person if they lose mental capacity.
The Powers of Attorney Act fires the starting gun on bringing the existing paper-based process online for the first time. The changes, when introduced, will make the system quicker, easier to access and more secure for the thousands of people who make and rely on a lasting power of attorney every year.
The legislation, which was introduced by Stephen Metcalfe MP and supported by the government, will also strengthen existing fraud protection by allowing checks on the identity of those applying for a lasting power of attorney.
The new online system and the additional safeguards are now being developed by the Office of the Public Guardian. Extensive testing will need to be carried out to ensure the process is simple to use, works as intended and is secure. More information on when it will be available will be published in the coming months.
Justice Minister Mike Freer yesterday said:
Millions of people rely on a lasting power of attorney to make sure their care and finances are taken care of should they lose mental capacity.
This Act allows us to modernise the service, introduce new safeguards from fraud and abuse and make it simpler to give people peace of mind their interests will be protected.
The number of registered lasting power of attorneys has increased drastically in recent years to more than 6 million but the process of making one retains many paper-based features that are over 30 years old. Every year, the Office of the Public Guardian handles more than 19 million pieces of paper as a result of their offline system.
The digitalisation will speed up registration time by picking up errors earlier and allowing them to be fixed online rather than having to wait for documents to be posted back and forth between the applicant and the Office of the Public Guardian as currently happens.
An improved paper process will also be introduced for those unable to use the internet.
These reforms build on the success of the ‘Use an LPA’ service which was launched in 2020 which allowed organisations like banks to digitally and securely check the registration of a lasting power of attorney instantaneously. This sped up a process that previously took weeks to conclude while paper copies were shared.
Amy Holmes, the Public Guardian for England and Wales, yesterday said:
This is a significant milestone in our plans to modernise lasting powers of attorney and we are one step closer to a quicker, more secure and straightforward service.
Our focus now is on continuing to develop, test and refine a new online platform and improved paper process to ensure we provide a service that will include additional safeguards and suit the needs of all our customers.
In the meantime, the Office of the Public Guardian has increased the number of staff processing applications and the teams are now registering around 19,000 more lasting powers of attorney a month than before the pandemic.
Notes to editors:
- Lasting power of attorney was introduced in 2007 as part of the Mental Capacity Act 2005. This replaced the previous system of enduring power of attorney that had been in place since 1986.
- There are two types of lasting power of attorney (LPA). Property and affairs LPAs cover decisions such as buying and selling property or managing bank or building society accounts or investments. Health and Welfare LPAs cover decisions about medical treatments and care arrangements such as where a person should live, who they contact, and their day-to-day care.
- Although LPAs are a private agreement between individuals, the Office of the Public Guardian must register an LPA before it can be used.
- The Use an LPA service is only eligible for LPAs registered after 1 January 2016.
- The reforms were based on a Ministry of Justice consultation response in May 2022: Lasting Power of Attorney revamp to improve safety and efficiency