The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) supports me in carrying out the legal functions of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA). The MCA protects people in England and Wales who may not have the mental capacity to make certain decisions for themselves, such as their health and financial affairs.

This October OPG celebrates its tenth anniversary. OPG was established by the implementation of the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) in 2007 and has since become the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ’s) fastest growing executive agency.

OPG’s growth came about largely as a result of our ageing population, an increase in the incidence of age-related conditions such as dementia and greater awareness of the need to plan ahead.

Nowadays, more and more of us have a role in supporting someone who has lost mental capacity. Deputyships and applications to set up lasting powers of attorney (LPAs) are on the rise. To sustain such growth, OPG has had to transform its business, and we’ve come a long way in doing so.

Deputyships

We supervise over 57,000 deputies in their duties of looking after someone else’s financial affairs and we’ve worked hard to improve the service we offer to them. We introduced the online deputy reporting service in June 2016, and since then over 2,700 lay deputies have completed their reports online. Public authorities can use the service too, and 33 authorities have registered to use it so far. Professional deputies will be coming on board next year, hopefully by spring 2018. By completing their reports online, deputies can see where they have made any mistakes or missed anything out before they submit it, which saves time and avoids having to complete them again.

You can take a look at the reporting service at www.complete-deputy-report.service.gov.uk Please contact the OPG public authority deputy team if you’re interested in setting up an account by calling 0115 934 2817.

As well as developing our digital services we’ve transformed the way we manage deputy cases. Cases are now looked after from beginning to end by the same case manager and we’ve written more guidance to help deputies carry out their duties. We publish all our guidance on our GOV.UK pages and regularly update them.

Lasting powers of attorney

Many adults in your care might not have a deputy but could benefit from setting up an LPA in case they should lose mental capacity in the future. This is another growing area of our work and we’ve seen applications for LPA increase by roughly 30% year-on-year. In 2016 to 17 alone we processed over 640,000 applications and we now have over 2 million LPAs on the register. 

We reduced our power of attorney registration fees in April 2017 to £82. We hope this will encourage even more people to take this important step and plan for the future, including those who are looked after by adult social services.

So, what do the next 10 years have in store for OPG?

My personal aim is that we get to a situation where every person is able to make an active choice about making an LPA. Making an LPA means that you can choose someone in advance to look after your affairs, should you lose mental capacity, rather than the Court of Protection choosing a deputy who you might not have picked for yourself.

In planning for future demand for LPAs, we’ve built a profile of our own customer base. What we’re seeing, maybe not surprisingly, is that people from socially deprived backgrounds are not taking up LPAs, despite the fact that they may qualify for a complete fee exemption from us. Everyone has the right to choose who they trust to support them. I want to make sure more people are aware of this right, no matter what their social background is.

A House of Commons briefing paper published last October suggests that risk factors in younger age groups can be directly linked to increased levels of dementia in later life. There could be a ‘ticking time bomb’ in some communities where dementia rates are currently low, but where there’s high prevalence for those risk factors, such as obesity, coronary heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

We know that people tend to hope things won’t happen to them, or simply put off having such difficult conversations and that’s why many don’t consider making an LPA. They might also worry that it’s too expensive.

It’s not easy to influence people’s behaviour and this certainly gives us a challenge to address. However, by improving our understanding and working closely with our stakeholders, like organisations such as ADASS, we’ll start to address what’s stopping people taking action. Everyone – irrespective of their income – needs to consider how to make provision for their future.

So, the next ten years are set to be busy and exciting. We’ll pursue our ambitions to reach a wider demographic with LPAs. We’ll also continue to review our safeguarding processes to better protect adults at risk. Finally, we‘ll continue to promote awareness of the MCA and the principles enshrined within it.

Can you help us promote LPAs to a wider audience?

I’d like to finish this blog by asking for your help. Could you promote LPAs to your service users, before it’s too late for them to make the choice? Do your service users know that they can create an LPA for themselves online at www.gov.uk/power-of-attorney/choose and that they may be entitled to a fee exemption? Have they heard about the fees reduction if they aren’t entitled to an exemption?

If you would like any further information or support then please contact the OPG customer relationship management team at CustomerRelations@publicguardian.gsi.gov.uk

 

Alan Eccles

Public Guardian and Chief Executive