OPG Annual Panel Deputy Conference
Notes from the annual OPG Annual Panel Deputy Conference
Once a year the Office of the Public Guardian (the OPG) hold their annual conference for professional Deputies who are on their approved panel list.
This year’s conference was held in Birmingham on Thursday 6th July and featured some interesting speakers from the OPG, the Official Solicitor Office and the Senior Court Costs office.
The morning started off with an update from Angela Johnson, Head of Practice and Compliance at the OPG.
Angela reminded everyone that this year marks the 10 year anniversary of the Mental Capacity Act coming into force. Which also makes it the 10th birthday of the OPG. How time filies.
With an ageing population, the massive work of the OPG is quite unbelievable. They currently supervise 57,702 Deputy cases and have, to date, registered 2.4 million Lasting Powers of Attorney – on average they receive 2,900 new LPA registration applications each day!
This figure is likely to continue to increase, with recent research suggesting that one in four of us may suffer from some form of dementia during our lifetimes. Because of this the OPG have an ambition to raise public awareness and encourage more people, and younger people, to plan for their future by putting in place an LPA.
We always encourage clients to put in place an LPA while they are in good health. Sadly, we see far too many cases where illness can render a person mentally incapable of making this decision for themselves, leaving it necessary to make an application to Court to appoint a Deputy – which can be a slow and costly process.
Statutory Wills and Gift Applications
Later in the day we heard from representatives from the Official Solicitors Office about applications for Statutory Wills and gifts.
They gave a really interesting talk on the causes for delays in Statutory Will applications progressing, citing three main reasons for difficulties arising:-
- Incomplete information within the application – particularly they emphasised the importance of having the correct assessment of capacity evidence and all of the information listed in the relevant practice direction.
- Incorrect identification of respondents and interested parties – it is important to list all of those who have an interest in the application. The Court will also be reluctant to dispense with the need to serve absent family members, only doing so in exceptional circumstances.
- Failure to set out why the proposed Statutory Will is in the client’s “best interests” – witness evidence should set out the views of the applicant, addressing the various factors prescribed in the Mental Capacity Act and subsequent case law.
Master Jennifer James is the first full time female Costs Master and during her entertaining talk she shared useful information on the assessment of Deputy costs by the Senior Court Cost Office.
She emphasised the importance of their role in acting as an independent adjudicator of Deputy costs and how Deputies should maintain good record keeping of the work they have done, in order to be able to justify the costs that they wish to claim.
In the afternoon we enjoyed discussion groups with fellow Panel Deputies and OPG staff on issues of Deputy best practice, including:-
- Identifying assets and recovering misappropriated funds.
- OPG investigations into accusations against Deputies and Attorneys
- OPG Deputy visits and supervision
This all made for a really interesting and engaging day. Having been a Deputy now for more years now than I would care to mention, I find that there is always something new to learn or a different way to approach a client problem. Sharing best practice with fellow Panel Deputies and staff from the OPG is very helpful, enabling us to build on the good work that we do to support and assist our clients.