Power of attorney service looks to digital future

Government wants to replace ageing paper processes

Credit: PA

The government is planning to revamp the process through which lasting power of attorney is granted and move to a chiefly digital system.

LPA allows a person to appoint someone to make decisions on their behalf if, at some point in the future, they are indisposed or no longer have the mental capacity to do so. The power can be awarded for one, other or both of: health and welfare matters; and financial and property decisions.

The system is administered by the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice.

The number of LPAs registered throughout England and Wales has “increased drastically in recent years”, according to the government, and now stands at more than five million.

“But the process of making one retains many paper-based features that are over 30 years old,” it added.

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With a view to reforming the process and implementing a largely digital system, the OPG has launched a 12-week public consultation seeking views on proposals to “fundamentally alter and update a process that has been in place for decades” – albeit while maintaining paper-based processes for those who lack access to digital platforms. 

Tech reforms may include remote means of witnessing proceedings, and the introduction of an urgent service where power of attorney is required to make imminent decisions.

The proposals also include plans to increase and broaden “the OPG’s legal powers to check identities and stop or delay any registrations that raise concern”. 

“It will also look at making the process for objecting to the registration of an LPA simpler to help stop potentially abusive LPAs,” the government said.

The ultimate aims of introducing a new service include reducing the number of LPAs that are not granted on account of “avoidable errors”.
Justice minister Alex Chalk said: “A lasting power of attorney provides comfort and security to millions of people as they plan for old age. These changes will make the service quicker to use, easy to access and even more secure from fraud.”

LPAs that have already been granted can, as of last year, be used digitally, after the introduction of a service that allows details of the arrangements to be shared online.

Th consultation on further updates to the service runs until 13 October and can be accessed here.

Nick Goodwin, public guardian for England and Wales, said: “More people are taking the vital step to plan for the future by applying for lasting powers of attorney, and we want to make sure that it is as safe and simple as possible to do so. This consultation puts forward proposals which will allow us to make the service fit for the modern world – one that can be accessed online, and which grants OPG the power to conduct thorough checks to protect against fraud while making it easier for people to raise concerns.”


Sam Trendall

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