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Powers of Attorney

Volume 476: debated on Wednesday 21 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) how many applications for lasting power of attorney have been declared invalid since the inception of the Office of the Public Guardian; for what reasons in each case; and whether each was subsequently accepted; (205783)

(2) what assessment he has made of the performance of the Office of the Public Guardian in meeting its service standards;

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many lasting power of attorney forms have been incorrectly completed and returned to the applicant since the introduction of such forms; in how many such cases (a) applicants have been required to pay a second registration fee on successful completion of the form and (b) applicants have discontinued their registration; and for what purposes a second registration fee is required. (206586)

The information is as follows:

Applications to register a lasting power of attorney

Since the commencement of the Mental Capacity Act in October 2007 until the end of March 2008 the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) received 9,623 applications to register a lasting power of attorney (LPA). During the same period 1,256 lasting powers of attorney were registered by the Public Guardian. Currently we do not have figures for the total number of LPAs that were rejected during this period as the bulk of the 9,623 applications will still be progressing through the system.

The OPG will only reject an application if it contains material errors that are not capable of correction. The OPG's recent experience is that many initially imperfect applications can be registered after the errors have been corrected by an exchange of correspondence.

The OPG recently carried out a sampling exercise that suggested around 40 per cent. of applications are valid on receipt and can be registered once the statutory waiting period has expired, around 30 per cent. of applications can be registered once further information has been provided and around 30 per cent. cannot be registered at all due to material errors in the application. In January the OPG also identified the main reasons currently why an LPA cannot be registered and made this information available on its website.

A decision was also taken that where a fresh application was necessary and the invalid application was received prior to January the OPG would not charge an additional fee for registration. However, where a new application is required for invalid applications received after January an additional fee will be payable. Where all that is required is additional information, or where errors can be corrected without a fresh application being necessary, no additional fee is payable regardless of when the application was made.

Performance standards at the OPG

There are a number of methods by which the performance of the OPG is currently measured:

Annual key performance indicators (KPIs), agreed with the Ministry of Justice, set out how the Office of the Public Guardian and Court of Protection will meet their service levels.

I also currently receive regular updates on performance from the chief executive and meet with him to discuss performance.

A statutory Public Guardian board scrutinises the way in which the Public Guardian discharges his functions and makes recommendations to the Lord Chancellor as appropriate. I have met periodically with the chair of the board since its inception.

The OPG and Court’s Annual report for 2007-08 is due to be published prior to the summer recess and will include an assessment of performance against KPIs and the Public Guardian board will be publishing their first report on the Public Guardian around October 2008 once the Act has been in operation for a full year.

The OPG and Court recently published their business plan for 2008-09 with revised KPIs that give a clearer picture of performance and levels of service to customers.

The Office of the Public Guardian and Court of Protection have faced a number of operational challenges since they were created as a result of volumes of work significantly higher than expected. Although there are positive aspects to this—for example it appears large numbers of people are planning ahead by making a new lasting power of attorney—the high volumes have meant a dip in performance levels. Additional resources have been made available to manage the higher than anticipated workloads and these have been deployed across the organisation and in particular into the team that register powers of attorney. However it will inevitably take some time before the additional resources take full effect.