Power of attorney update
The Office of the Public Guardian introduces measures to reduce the backlog of applications
OPG still has a waiting time for powers of attorney (PoAs) to be processed and has introduced various measures to help address this, including one permanent and five short-term members of staff. Over the past few weeks staff have come in over the weekend to help process PoAs. These measures are helping OPG to work through PoAs in hand.
To illustrate the volumes OPG is dealing with, in February 2017:
- 6,293 PoAs were received, 3,861 by EPOAR and 2,432 manually;
- 1,724 items of general mail were processed;
- typically, 110 telephone calls per day were handled.
General mail processing can include death certificates, changes of address or name, revocations and amendments. This work can be time-consuming considering the volumes dealt with, and thus impacts on the time spent processing PoAs.
OPG is monitoring the number, nature and duration of phone calls to help identify the most effective call-handling system. Although many enquiries are of a general nature, an increasing percentage relate to information held on the public register. It is hoped an online public register will shortly be available so it will no longer be necessary to phone to obtain this information. Updates will be provided as this progresses.
The team is also looking at “marginal gains” – any small matter which, in itself, would seem to take seconds but when multiplied by the number of PoAs, would offer a significant time saving. An example is the removal of heat binding the document, a process which took about 30 seconds per document, which when totalled approached the equivalent of two additional staff days per week to give to processing.
OPG appreciates that the waiting time to process PoAs is not ideal; the website (www.publicguardian-scotland.gov.uk/general/news) and Twitter page (@OPGScotland) are updated weekly to let you know the dates of the submissions it is processing. OPG recognises that clients may be asking for updates on how their submission is progressing. It offers an expedited registration service “on cause shown”; to use this please email POA-INV@scotcourts.gov.uk. This measure will allow the service to be managed appropriately and help to ensure that the process is being used in cases of true urgency.
Fees increase on 1 April
Fees payable to the Public Guardian will increase on 1 April 2017. The new fee levels are outlined in sched 3 of SSI 2016/260.
Payment with application
Over the past few months there has been an increase in the number of credit account requests and instructions for OPG to contact either a granter or solicitor for the registration fee payment, for neither of which can provision be made. Due to the volume of PoAs being received each day, it is not possible for OPG to contact a sender or granter to arrange for payment.
Senders are reminded that if a PoA payment is not made at the time of the submission, all documentation will be returned to them. Please note that cheques, credit/debit card and cash can be accepted as methods of payment.
There are certain circumstances where someone may be entitled to a fee exemption. To claim an exemption, apply using the form on the website. Supporting evidence is required, therefore please ensure that the full award letter, or any alternative evidence, is enclosed with the application.
If applying for a fee exemption for the PoA registration fee, submissions must be made via the manual method and not via EPOAR. The exemption scheme for PoAs started in April 2016 and does not apply retrospectively.
On the horizon
OPG has been working on amendments to guardianship supervision, to move away from “one size fits all” to provide a tailored and proportionate system. In order to inform this, nominated guardians will be contacted ahead of their appointment requiring them to complete and return certain information. More detail will be provided in the next update.
OPG is also about to launch a scheme for the supervision of professional guardians; benefits include that it will markedly shorten the time taken to review annual accounts.
Work is in hand with the Scottish Government to look at innovative ways of redesigning the current guardianship application process; more as this major project evolves.