Taking the heat out of a family war?
The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) is about to launch a mediation pilot scheme to deal with family conflicts about powers of attorney.
The scheme will apply to Enduring and Lasting Powers of Attorney. The mediation will be face to face as far as possible. The views of the person who made the power of attorney will be very important and will be obtained in the most appropriate way, whether that be by them attending in person, making a statement on paper or video or being represented by an advocate such as an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate. The Office of the Public Guardian will instigate the mediation in appropriate cases, not individual family members.
The aim is to avoid a court hearing but if the issues cannot be resolved by mediation that is still an option. The mediation will not run alongside court proceedings but rather it will be either / or, with the hope of course that mediation resolves the issues so no proceedings are needed!
The scheme will not generally be appropriate for cases where abuse or neglect is alleged. The scheme does not apply to Deputyships at this stage but that could change.
After the pilot, the OPG will assess the success of the scheme and specifically whether the mediation being instigated by the Office of the Public Guardian makes it work better, as opposed to just suggesting mediation. If the OPG option is chosen, then a decision will need to be made about who pays for mediation.
The hope is that seeing each other at mediation will remind families why they are there and encourage them to become more reasonable. OPG investigators often see this happen at a hearing and the aim is to bring everyone together before matters reach that pitch.
This is a very welcome development. These situations can be very traumatic for the person who lacks capacity and for the whole family. If mediation can keep the best interests of the person lacking capacity at the forefront while bring the family back together and away from an adversarial process that has to be best. It will be interesting to see if the OPG ‘badging’ makes a difference to the take up or engagement.