Powers of Attorney Guidelines need to take neglect more seriously
According to a recent article in The Times, which reported statistics from the Public Guardian, around 2,000 cases a week are linked to allegations of financial and physical abuse.
A Lasting Power of Attorney is a document that officially nominates a person to make decisions for you in the event that you are unable to do so yourself. The nominated person, the “Attorney”, has the power to take over your finances – so they can pay bills, such as rent or utilities – but they can also make decisions on your behalf in relation to any medical treatment or other welfare decisions needed if you lack capacity to make decisions for yourself.
Sadly, sometimes this means the trust that has been placed in the hands of the appointed attorney/s can also lead to significant wrongdoing, or even abuse.
According to the Public Guardian, the number of people given caring responsibilities under Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is at its highest peak. This is great and as it should be. LPAs protect the wishes of an individual and when executed properly can offer peace of mind for both the person and their families. However, the increase in LPAs also means an increase in investigations for neglect and abuse.
Most cases involve financial neglect, where the attorney has failed to pay care home fees, leading to the vulnerable person facing eviction. There are also cases where children are insisting on alternative medication or treatments for ill health, often against the advice from doctors.
However, this should not put anyone off. LPAs are an extremely important document, and, it is worth noting that in around 50% of cases investigated by the Public Guardian, they find no wrongdoing. Those that result in court prosecution however are successful in most instances, plus, there are very few, rare instances that actually involve any kind of physical abuse.
Thankfully, more people are considering LPAs as the population ages and awareness of age-related conditions that affect mental capacity has risen in recent years. According to the Public Guardian, about 800,000 more LPAs had been registered in the past year – but as the number of LPAs rise, so does the responsibility to ensure guidelines are kept tight and any wrongdoing is taken more seriously. It is essential that people think carefully about who they should appoint to act as attorney for them. It is possible to appoint named solicitors to act or to include within the LPAs restrictions and conditions as additional safeguards. What looks like a simple form filling exercise can lead to significant issues as the statistics referred to demonstrate.
If you would like any help writing your LPA, or your will, contact the Private Client team at Downs Solicitors to see how we can help. We can also advise attorneys as to how to properly carry out their role and in particular in relation to making best interest decisions.