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Powers of Attorney: Coronavirus

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 12th May 2020.

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Photo of Dan Jarvis Dan Jarvis Labour, Barnsley Central

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the length of time taken to process an application for Lasting Power of Attorney; and what steps his Department is taking to allocate additional resources to processing those applications during the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) aims to register Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) in 40 working days (this includes a statutory 4-week waiting period). OPG has seen an impact on the time taken to process an LPA since COVID-19 began affecting circumstances. As of 07/05/2020 the average time taken to process and dispatch an LPA was 45 days against the target of 40 days. As a comparison, the March average came in at 34 days, and the average of 40 days was achieved in 2019/20.

LPAs are paper documents that require a physical staff presence in an office to process and register, therefore these elements of the registration process have been affected by the need to maintain social distancing measures. Additionally, the staff numbers that are available to attend the office to carry out the physical activities are significantly reduced due to COVID-19 reasons (including shielding themselves and others).

OPG have introduced several new measures with the aim of mitigating the impacts of COVID-19 and social distancing on the time taken to register LPAs including:

  • Overtime targeted to where there are blockages within the registration system because of a requirement for staff to be physically present in the office – this is starting to prove highly effective
  • Introducing a new process where customer payments are taken over the phone
  • Contacting customers using digital means such as email and text
  • Identifying a new offsite print and post solution, meaning staff aren’t required to be in the office to post letters to customers

In recent weeks ,OPG has produced guidance to help people make and use LPAs during the coronavirus outbreak. These are available on https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-office-of-the-public-guardian-response.

This guidance provides clarity on how to make an LPA while observing social distancing and responds to common concerns around acting as an attorney during this time. The guidance also includes options which may be useful to help individuals plan for the immediate-term. These relate to health, welfare and financial decisions.

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