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Office of the Public Guardian: Powers of Attorney

Volume 475: debated on Tuesday 29 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what information he has on the time taken to administer the registration of lasting powers of attorney by the Public Guardian Office (PGO); and what steps are being taken to improve the performance of the PGO in this respect. (201243)

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 was fully implemented on 1 October 2007. It also introduced new lasting powers of attorney (LPAs) to enable people to appoint someone to make decisions on their behalf in relation to their property and affairs and/or their health and welfare.

In addition, enduring powers of attorney (EPAs) made prior to October 2007 remain valid.

All LPAs must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) before they can be used. EPAs only need to be registered with the OPG once the person to whom they relate has lost capacity.

The total number of applications to register both types of power of attorney since the new legislation came into force in October has greatly exceeded forecasts. The last three months in particular have seen volumes again increase even more sharply. This has put a strain on resources and led to delays.

It is currently taking staff around six weeks to process and check LPAs to ensure they are valid before other parties can be notified that an application has been made. Applications then enter a statutory waiting period of 42 days during which objections can be made against the application. This is an important safeguard to allow any concerns about the power to be aired. Where no objections are received, staff are registering the power and notifying the applicant within another week.

Steps have been taken to address the delays in this process which exist mainly at the point where applications are received and checked:

Additional staff are being taken on at all levels to deal with processing the higher than expected volumes.

Some staff have already been taken on temporarily in some of the more process-driven areas to increase capacity quickly.

Other staff are currently undergoing training to ensure they can carry out their new roles effectively.

Procuring additional IT equipment to increase the team’s capacity to scan and check applications at the front end. The additional equipment has been ordered and is awaiting installation.

As a result of these steps, I expect the OPG to have reached a point where it has reduced the front-end period spent processing and checking applications to two weeks in June. This would be in line with the level of service that we aim to offer our customers and which is tracked as a corporate target as one of the OPG’s key performance indicators.