Office of Public Guardian delays cause hardship for older people

Families are unable to sell the homes of older relatives who lack mental capacity because of delays by the Office of the Public Guardian in granting approval, an advisory service says.

The failure to meet targets in processing applications for enduring or lasting powers of attorney (EPA/LPA) is forcing families to raise money for their relatives’ care fees, according to NHFA Care Advice.

The Office of the Public Guardian opened in October 2007, when the 2005 Mental Capacity Act came into force, to regulate and monitor people who make decisions on behalf of others on property, health and welfare issues. It admitted to struggling with its workload in its first annual report this year.

Nine week target missed

In June 2008 the agency missed its nine-week target for processing applications because of a substantial backlog, and took an average of 13 weeks instead.

The NHFA said that as a result of the delay the assets of older people become frozen and they are not eligible for means-tested help from local authorities because they exceed the capital threshold.

Families of relatives faced further difficulties in selling properties due to the downturn in the housing market, said Phillip Spiers, managing director of NHFA.

He said: “If this situation is allowed to continue…then older people could be at risk of being forced to remain at home with inadequate care packages long after it is safe or advisable for them to do so.”

Office regrets delays

A spokesperson for the Office of the Public Guardian said it “regretted” delays in processing registrations of LPAs, but added it had been meeting the nine-week target since the end of August.

“We know customers have been experiencing very real problems and we have been working hard to address these,” the spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said the OPG had received more than 46,000 LPAs and EPAs for registration so far this year, “more than double the numbers of EPAs that were registered in the last year of the Public Guardianship Office”.

Anyone unhappy with the performance of the OPG, including delays in processing applications, can complain to the agency’s compliance and regulation unit. The spokesperson added that an independent adjudication service was available for anyone unhappy with the way their complaint had been handled.

External information

Office of the Public Guardian – official website

Department of Health – information on the 2005 Mental Capacity Act


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