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Govt digitises power of attorney service

Govt digitises power of attorney service

The government has digitised its lasting power of attorney process in a bid to speed up processes for those acting on behalf of a friend or relative.

Unveiled by the Office of Public Guardian today (July 17), the new ‘Use a lasting power of attorney’ system replaces a paper-based process which currently requires individuals to request and confirm documents before being posted as physical copies.

Under the new system, those acting as an attorney can provide a secure code, submitted to an online portal, which instantaneously confirms their status as an attorney and the power they hold.

This then authorises them to take actions — such as decisions on banking, care and property — on their loved ones’ behalf.

The OPG said the new tool maintained existing checks to protect the vulnerable and elderly from abuse.

Nick Goodwin, public guardian for England and Wales, said: “More people are taking the important step to plan for the future and apply for a Lasting Power of Attorney, and we want to make sure those they entrust with making vital decisions on their behalf receive the very best possible support.

“Our new digital service will ensure attorneys can make effective and efficient decisions when managing their loved ones’ affairs – without the delays a paper-based services can cause.”

The move is part of a wider transformation of the work of the OPG, which is attempting to make better use of digital products and services while using smarter ways of working.

The number of people signing over financial control has continued to rise in 2020, with more than 200,000 powers of attorney submitted in the first quarter of the year.

Data from the Ministry of Justice, published earlier this month, showed 239,647 powers of attorney were received in January to March 2020 — up 5 per cent from the same quarter last year.

Although generally seen as a welcome trend, the increased number of LPAs comes with an increased amount of misuse.

In October data showed the Office of Public Guardian made 721 applications to the Court of Protection to remove or censure LPAs in 2018/19 — 55 per cent more than the previous year and a record high.

The findings also showed this figure had doubled over the past two years and that making improper gifts and not acting in a vulnerable person’s best interests were the two main reasons for having attorneys censured and removed.

There have since been calls to reform the system after concerns were raised LPAs failed to provide support for vulnerable customers.

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