Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs) were introduced in 2007 to allow someone with mental capacity to nominate a third party to make decisions on their behalf if they later lose capacity.
A health and welfare LPA will cover matters relating to medical treatment, where a person lives and their daily routine and may also authorise an attorney to give or refuse consent to life-sustaining treatment on their behalf. Financial and property LPAs give attorneys permission to manage finances, sell properties and pay bills.
A report published by The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI) entitled ‘A little Help From My Friends’ is urging the Government to reform the (LPA) system, following research into the effects on vulnerable individuals.
The research found that just 3 per cent of people who have experienced a mental health issue have used an LPA, while less than one-third would consider using an LPA in its current guise.
According to the publication, the main issues with the current system are the lack of privacy, the excessive power which is delegated, the risk of abuse and that the system is complex and difficult to understand.
The report stated that people with mental health issues would benefit from a system that allowed a third party to have some control of their finances, but not total control. For example, the third party might be entitled to see bank statements and could receive notifications about unusual activity.
MMHPI has recommended that in considering reforms to LPAs, the Government should come up with a system which minimises the risk of fraud and abuse, ensures better access to the system, preserves privacy and balances autonomy and support.
It has also made recommendations that the Government consider a tiered LPA system, in which individuals can appoint a third party to assist with decisions in a supporting role.