UK government is urged to educate public in use of LPAs
The survey of 2,000 UK residents found that only one in seven people have given someone else power of attorney over their affairs. The reason, says Which?, is a lack of awareness among the public, combined with a system that is ‘outdated’ and ‘difficult to navigate’.
There are also widespread misconceptions about the use of LPAs, according to the survey. Although 85 per cent of respondents said they knew what an LPA was, 16 per cent thought that an individual loses access to their financial accounts once the legal document is registered. Moreover, 77 per cent thought they could create an LPA at any time in their life, not realising that it cannot be done once mental capacity has been lost.
The survey also found that people holding a valid registered LPA can have difficulty dealing with the donor’s banks, which sometimes lost LPA documents, failed to properly explain the registration process or unnecessarily made the attorney visit a branch in person. Even after registration has been completed, some banks do not authorise full access to the donor’s accounts, for example by not allowing the attorney to use telephone or online banking services.
Which? is pressing the Office of the Public Guardian in England and Wales to improve awareness of and access to LPAs. It also wants more consistent industry standards and better access to accounts as well as the registration process. STEP is also concerned about the problems described by Which? ‘We are urging the Ministry of Justice to increase resources immediately to counter these registration issues’, says Emily Deane TEP, STEP Technical Counsel and Head of Government Affairs. ‘A “fast-track” procedure and channel should be established to deal with urgent matters’, she said.
‘We are calling on the OPG to do more to end the emotional, financial and physical abuse of older or vulnerable people, and protect them from controlling or coercive behaviour’, Deane adds. ‘The government also needs to focus on educating and informing the public about LPAs and why they are so important.’
The Ministry of Justice recently held a consultation on LPA reform in England and Wales, to which STEP responded in October 2021, and is currently in the process of analysing responses.
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