Government plans to promote LPAs and will-making
The government is to hold a ‘life planning day’ next year to raise awareness of lasting powers of attorney (LPAs) and other life planning mechanisms including will-making and advance decisions.
The announcement is part of the official government response to the House of Lords Select Committee report on the Mental Capacity Act.
Both the Lords committee and the government want the registering of LPAs to become a matter of course for most people, similar to taking out a life assurance policy. However, they recognise that LPAs are not properly recognised as authoritative by many professional groups and private sector organisations.
The health and social care sector have particularly poor awareness of the legal status of LPAs and living wills, because of paternalism in the medical profession and risk aversion in social care.
Thus the government is planning a campaign to improve the public understanding of LPAs. The ‘life planning day’ to be held in 2015 will be backed by a plan to ensure that information concerning registered LPAs can be shared between public bodies, and some private sector bodies such as banks and utilities, said the Ministry of Justice and Department of Health in a joint statement.
The government will also look at ways of supporting attorneys and deputies faced with non-compliance by public bodies or private companies. To this end the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) is chairing a task force to raise understanding of LPAs in the financial sector. This includes drafting of a leaflet highlighting the responsibilities and implications of acting on behalf of another person when given authority either informally or with a legal document.
There are no plans to introduce specific sanctions to deal with this situation, however, despite its common occurrence and the frustration and inconvenience it causes for relatives and practitioners alike. The government’s defence of this approach is that financial institutions have no legal duty to open or run a bank account for any person.
Instead of sanctions, then, the government says it and the OPG will work with overarching governance bodies and associations such as the Financial Conduct Authority and the Care Quality Commission to encourage compliance by organisations in their sectors.
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