August 2023 Update – LPA Registration Delays: Why are there delays at the Office of the Public Guardian?
The Telegraph recently highlighted the ongoing LPA registration delays. With a third of a million Lasting Power of Attorney applications still pending, families have been expressing their concerns over paying for care home fees and other bills. – Solicitors for the Elderly
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Table of Contents
- What is a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)?
- What are the benefits of making a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)?
- How is an LPA registered?
- How long does an LPA take to process?
- How long are the LPA registration delays at the OPG?
- Why are there LPA registration delays at the OPG?
- Can I check the status of my Lasting Power of Attorney application?
- Can you speed up power of attorney registration?
- What effect will the delays at the OPG have on people waiting for their LPAs to be registered?
- How will the situation regarding LPA registration delays at the OPG be resolved?
- How can a Solicitor help with LPAs and managing the LPA registration delays?
What is a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)?
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that gives people of your choice (attorneys) the authority to help and deal with your affairs on your behalf.
This gives you more control and peace of mind about what will happen to you if you become unable to make your own decisions.
For more information about LPAs, please read this article.
There are two types of LPA:
Health and Welfare
A Health and Welfare LPA allows your attorneys to make decisions about your health and welfare. This includes your medical care, liaising with doctors and dealing with care homes. A Health and Welfare Power of Attorney can only be used if/when you become unable to make these decisions yourself (when you have ‘lost mental capacity’).
Property and Financial Affairs
A Property and Financial Affairs LPA allows your attorneys to help you and make decisions on your behalf in regards to any property and financial affairs. This can include managing bank accounts, paying bills, selling your home and dealing with pension providers. With your permission, a Property and Financial Affairs LPA can also be used whilst you have mental capacity.
What are the benefits of making a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)?
There are many benefits of making LPAs.
- If you become unable to make decisions for yourself, the person you appoint as an attorney can make decisions for you.
- If you do still have capacity, a Property and Financial Affairs LPA allows your attorneys (with your consent)to carry out practical tasks for you. This may be useful in many situations. For example, if you are immobile, your attorney can visit a bank and deposit a cheque for you.
- You get to choose who your attorneys are. This means you can appoint people you trust to act in your best interest. Attorneys can be family or friends. You can also choose different attorneys for each type of LPA, if required.
- You can decide when the Property and Financial Affairs LPA comes into effect. This means you can enact the LPA immediately from the date of registration, or it can be delayed until such a time that you do lose capacity. A Health and Welfare LPA is valid from the date of registration and cannot be delayed.
- An LPA provides peace of mind for you and your loved ones. The LPA will give your attorneys the ability to act quickly if you suddenly lose capacity, for example, an unforeseen accident.
How is an LPA registered?
A signed and witnessed LPA is sent to the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) for registration. The LPA cannot be used until it has been registered by the OPG.
How long does an LPA take to process?
Before 2020 and the covid pandemic, it took around 10 weeks for LPAs to be registered with the OPG. However, since the pandemic, there is a huge backlog and significant LPA registration delays. Processing is taking anywhere between 18 – 24 weeks.
How long are the LPA registration delays at the OPG?
Latest updates from the OPG advise that LPA registration is now taking around 20 weeks.
A recent article from the Law Gazette confirms that there is a backlog of applications, which stood at 160,442 at the end of the 2021/22 financial year. This article also stated that the average clearance time for LPA applications in May 2022 was 82 days.
August 2023 Update
The Office of the Public Guardian have recently confirmed at a meeting with the BEST Foundation that it is “unlikely” that LPA registration applications will return to the pre-COVID 8 weeks’ timescale. For now, the OPG are continuing to advise that LPA registration applications will take around 20 weeks.
Why are there LPA registration delays at the OPG?
LPA registration delays at the OPG have been blamed on the effects of the Covid pandemic.
In the peak of the pandemic, LPA applications dropped by 26%, as lockdown made the process more onerous. https://www.professionaladviser.com/news/4041157/lpa-applications-drop-26-pandemic
Once restrictions were lifted, more applications were made. There was a backlog of people who had already planned to make an LPA prior to the pandemic. The uncertainty of the pandemic may have also prompted more people to think about their future and making LPAs.
There was a suggestion that the LPA registration delays were due to staff working remotely during the pandemic. This was denied by the OPG, who said “staff working from home had no bearing on the delays in processing applications”
There has been a loss of permanent staff at the OPG. Therefore, the influx of applications and limited staff numbers may be the reason for the delays on processing times.
The Ministry of Justice have since stated that “While processing times remain higher than before the pandemic […] the number of LPAs being registered each month was back to pre-pandemic levels.”
Can I check the status of my Lasting Power of Attorney application?
The only viable way to track power of attorney applications is by making a phone call to the OPG.
The OPG will only write to confirm safe receipt of the application, and then to confirm when it has been registered. There is no simple way of tracking the progress of a submitted LPA application during the registration time.
Similarly, if you have submitted your LPA online, you will only be able to track whether your application has been received and registered. You will not be provided with frequent updates in between.
The OPG have requested that you do not contact them to check up on your application until the estimated 20 week registration time has passed.
Can you speed up power of attorney registration?
It may be possible to speed up your application by sending letters and making phone calls to the OPG. This is not a formal process. Unfortunately, we are finding that this is not very successful at the moment due to such a heavy backlog.
When submitting your LPA, it is important to make sure there are no mistakes or errors in it. These will delay the already lengthy process. Your Solicitor will ensure that your LPA is correct the first time, avoiding further unnecessary LPA registration delays.
What effect will the delays at the OPG have on people waiting for their LPAs to be registered?
Sadly, these LPA registration delays may cause frustration and distress to donors and attorneys awaiting their registered LPAs.
The LPAs cannot be used or relied upon until they are registered.
We advise that LPAs are set up as soon as possible, to prepare for the future.
If you are awaiting your registered LPAs, it may be prudent to have a general discussion with your proposed attorneys. You should remind them of your wishes for the future and thoughts on particular decisions, such as care. Although this is not legally binding, this still means your loved ones will know what your wishes are.
Whilst it may be difficult to talk about, we always recommend that families and friends have these conversations. This could be about planning LPAs, Wills or generally for the future. This can ensure that your loved ones understand your wishes fully if anything unexpected should happen.
How will the situation regarding LPA registration delays at the OPG be resolved?
Part of the reform is to give people the option to make their LPAs online. The paper-based system will continue alongside as well.
The reforms are also designed to bring in stricter safeguarding plans and to protect vulnerable people from abuse and fraud. The plans include identification checks and review of official documents, such as driving license/passports.
The reforms aim to make the entire process simpler, quicker and easy to use. There are also plans to introduce a digital service to reduce application errors and speed up registration times.
We are awaiting an update as to when these plans will come into play. In the meantime, the government paper has confirmed that the OPG will continue to carry out engagement through workshops and research. This will help them find out how best they can limit delays and streamline the process.
How can a Solicitor help with LPAs and managing the LPA registration delays?
Your Solicitor can ensure that your LPA is completed without any errors. This means that registration will not be further delayed correcting these mistakes.
A Solicitor can also advise you on the current waiting time and any steps to take to whilst you await registration.
If you are thinking of making an LPA or finding out more information, we would be happy to advise you.
We look forward to hearing from you.