Earlier this week, Today’s Wills and Probate featured a story about professionals taking to social media to lambaste the service they have received from the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG).
Some of these issues spanned over several months, although the current coronavirus pandemic seems to have exacerbated issues further. However, one of the main gripes was the amount of time taken for Lasting Power of Attorneys (LPAs) to be returned to the professional.
Back in May, two weeks after lockdown, the Secretary of State for Justice was asked:
“What assessment has he 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 for processing those applications during the Covid-19 outbreak.”
On 12th May an answer was supplied to the questions outlined. This was updated at a later date, informing people that the time to process LPAs had actually increased to 45 days as a result of the pandemic.
The OPG has set a target to turn around LPAs in 40 days, but as many professionals are discovering this is not the case. Even 45 days seems an unlikely target as some professionals have been waiting since the end of January for the information they need.
The answer read:
“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).”
However, the OPG has outlined some of the steps it is taking in a bid to alleviate the backlog and reduce the time it takes LPAs to be turned around?
These measures include:
- Providing over time to staff who can come into the office, and work through the blockages within the registration system. Due to social distancing measures initially fewer members of staff were utilised. This has now increased
- Customers are now able to pay for LPAs over the telephone
- Communicating with customers has been done digitally, either by telephone or email
- Identifying a new offsite print and post solution, meaning staff aren’t required to be in the office to post letters to customers
Do you think the OPG could be doing more to clear the backlog and reduce the amount of time taken to ‘turn around’ LPAs?