How do the Office of the Public Guardian deal with safeguarding concerns?
The Office of the Public Guardian has just published guidance on how it deals with safeguarding concerns.
The note explains that people might have concerns about how an attorney has acted since a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) or an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) was registered, for example; misuse of the donor’s money or decisions that are not in the donor’s best interests, whether an attorney has made the LPA or EPA legally or how a deputy has acted since the Court of Protection appointed them. The Public Guardian is able to look into these concerns.
The guidance sets out what information about the donor and the concern a person reporting ought to give. That includes details of the donor but also when the person reporting first noticed the concern, whether this concern is on-going and any evidence the person has to support the concern, for example financial records. The person reporting is also asked what they know about the donor’s mental capacity and if any capacity reports are available or the person knows who may be able to provide them, the details should be provided. The guidance makes it clear that even if the person reporting does not have all of this information they can still report a concern.
During an investigation the Public Guardian will alert other agencies if they think they need to be involved. That would probably include Social Services, perhaps through a safeguarding adults at risk referral, or perhaps the police.
In most cases the OPG will ask a Court Visitor to assess the donor’s capacity and where possible ask the donor about the concerns that have been raised. The OPG will then ask the attorneys or deputies about the concerns and will ask Social Services for information they have about the person’s mental capacity, finances and care. They will also check whether anybody has made a safeguarding report. The OPG will want paperwork such as bank statements, receipts, legal and medical documents.
The OPG aims to finish investigations within 14 weeks but sometimes matters are more complicated. At the end of an investigation, the Public Guardian can ask the attorney or deputy to take certain actions and then monitor these to make sure they are happy with the outcome. The OPG might decide there is no further action to take and that the investigation shows the attorney or deputy was acting in the best interests of the person. They may also take no further action if they have passed the information to an appropriate agency. The OPG might apply to the Court of Protection to ask it to freeze bank accounts or order that the attorney or deputy provide information, or even to cancel an LPA, remove an attorney or a deputy and appoint somebody else in their place. Where they are asking for the removal of an attorney or deputy they will ask the Court to appoint somebody else to look after the person’s affairs. That would often be a panel deputy.
This is an extremely helpful guidance note and a good starting point for anybody with concerns. What many people do not realise is that the Public Guardian cannot look at concerns over an unregistered EPA. LPAs cannot be used until they are registered but that is not the case with EPAs and there are concerns about the abuse of EPAs which have not been registered. Anecdotally a lot of these ought to have been registered if the donor is losing or has lost capacity and that would bring the unscrupulous into a regime where they could be investigated.
Wrigleys Trustees Limited is often appointed as a panel deputy in cases where the OPG have investigated concerns about the behaviour of a deputy or attorney.