My hon. Friend and former Under Secretary of State for Justice (Helen Grant) announced in a debate on 30 October 2012, Official Report, column 53WH, a fundamental review by the Public Guardian of how the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) supports him in the supervision of deputies appointed by the Court of Protection. Deputies are appointed where a person lacks the mental capacity to manage their own affairs and has not previously nominated anyone to have lasting power of attorney. Concerns had been raised by Members about the charges that professional deputies were making, and this element was incorporated into the fundamental review.
The review aimed to make sure that there is a responsive, robust and case-sensitive approach to the supervision of deputies. The objective is that there should be effective and proportionate oversight and swift investigation of allegations of wrongdoing, to make sure that people who lack mental capacity are properly protected and their needs are met.
The review has now concluded and has identified ways in which the OPG can improve the protection it affords those lacking capacity, and the service it provides to those it is supporting and supervising. This includes a move to supervising according to deputy type. This will enable staff to specialise in one of the deputy types—lay, professional or local authority—and become more familiar with the challenges faced by a particular vulnerable group.
Concerns about the charges levied by professional deputies are also being addressed as a result of the fundamental review. New measures which have been agreed with stakeholder groups include targeted assurance visits to professional deputies and their clients carried out by a specialist OPG team and a requirement for deputies to submit annual plans and asset inventories, with work and cost estimates. Standards for professional deputies are also being developed.
A key element in the new framework will be the use of digital channels, which will allow more sophisticated monitoring and make services easier to use for deputies. This will dovetail with the culture change at the OPG, which will put the people it serves at the heart of all it does.
The proposed changes were included in a public consultation, to which the Government responded on 21 August 2014, and in engagements with stakeholder groups which continue.
I will place a copy of the review in the Libraries of both Houses.
It is also available online at: http://www.parliament.uk/writtenstatements.