The process of applying for lasting powers of attorney (LPA) is to go on the web under proposals announced by the Office of the Public Guardian on Friday. Basic information about individuals subject to powers of attorney would also be posted online, protected only by a password, according to the proposals launched for consultation.
The Office of the Public Guardian says that the ‘digital by default’ service will help resolve problems that have dogged it since its creation under the Mental Capacity Act 2005. The consultation admits that the office’s systems ‘have struggled to cope with the high levels of demand for its services’, especially those applying to register lasting and enduring powers of attorney.
‘The main barrier has been the unreliability and inflexibility of the existing legacy IT system.’
Alan Eccles, the public guardian, said: 'More and more people are now taking the important decision to apply for lasting powers of attorney and we want to make sure we provide the best possible service for them - one that is simple, straightforward and effective. The proposed new online application process will make applying simpler and quicker, while the changes we plan to make in the "back-office" will make the whole service more efficient.’
The proposals are likely to be controversial. One problem will be the capacity of applicants to go online. The consultation says individual who are not confident with the process will be able to fill in the electronic forms with the help of a third party - ‘for example, a solicitor’.
Another sensitive proposal is for data about individuals to be made available online, for use by third parties in emergencies. The consultation proposes that ‘tier 1’ information about whether an individual is subject to a power of attorney would be available to registered users. ‘Tier 2’ searches of more detailed information would be allowed only if a member of OPG staff had assessed the request.
Jonathan Djanogly, the justice minister, said: 'These proposals aim to make a real and positive difference to people dealing with what can be an emotional and difficult process. It is another example of the smart, commonsense changes being made throughout the justice system to create a better, more effective service for the public.'
The consultation closes on 19 October.