Ministry of Justice: Modernising Lasting Powers of Attorney

Older woman using a computer at home
Ministry of Justice / Office of the Public Guardian
19 Oct 2022

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) are seeking to modernise the process of making and registering a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) – in particular, by enabling applicants to complete as much of the process online as possible.

A lasting power of attorney is a legal document that lets you (the ‘donor’) appoint one or more people (known as ‘attorneys’) to help you make decisions or to make decisions on your behalf. This gives you more control over what happens to you if you have an accident or an illness and cannot make your own decisions (you ‘lack mental capacity’).

As part of this work, RiDC was asked by the MOJ and OPG to explore whether people with specific access needs might experience difficulties or have concerns if they were to complete the LPA process online. The findings were presented in a research report which included recommendations to help make the LPA process (both online and offline) as intuitive and user-friendly as possible for disabled and older applicants.

The research explored the common issues people with specific access needs experience when proving their identity, signing documents, keeping safe online and engaging with the LPA process and document. It also explored the people and organisations disabled and older people would turn to for support and what guidance they would need if they were to make an LPA.

A recurring theme that emerged in the research was the wish to be self-reliant when verifying one’s identity.

“I want to vouch for my identity myself, I appreciate it makes it a lot more difficult because of my disability but I want to be able to do everything myself and online - as it’s easier than having to get someone to drive me somewhere to do it.”

- A panel member with dexterity and mobility impairment

Simon Manby Senior Product Manager for MOJ UK, said:

“Our team has taken the research that was done by the RiDC and included it into the work we’ve been doing for the past two years. Sharing your experiences with us has helped us design a more inclusive prototype and we are pleased to say others think so too! In May we passed our internal government assessment and our work with RiDC was called out and praised. Passing this milestone means that we are now moving into the next phase, Beta, and are able to continue this important work of making the LPA even more inclusive and accessible to all.”

Key findings from the research

Verifying identity

● Over half of respondents would prefer to verify their identity online using an identity document (like a passport or driving licence) rather than signing into a separate online account. However, not having the necessary documents (eg due to expiration or the inability to afford them) was a huge concern with many urging acceptance of alternative documents (e.g. Blue Badges, birth or marriage certificates, transport passes etc.).

“I wouldn’t trust signing into my bank account (using Open Banking to verify my identity), my utility and council tax bill are not in my name. I don’t have a passport…I know very few disabled people who have or can afford one or get a driving license…the council issue me a bus pass – that’s in date and has my picture on it.”

- Panel member with dexterity, mobility, visual and cognitive impairments.

Keeping safe online

● Participants felt the least confident providing personal information online due to the prevalence of scams, and most confident using online banking due to the high security measures in place.

● With regard to setting up an online account to make a LPA online, respondents wanted clear instructions, as well as fully accessible forms and good security measures such as multi-factor authentication. Many were in favour of setting up and signing into a single GOV.UK account to access all government-related services.

● Nearly 2 in 5 of respondents had experienced difficulty making payments online before. With regard to paying the LPA application fee, many considered PayPal to be the most accessible and secure payment method.

“Two factor authentication makes me feel safer - it then feels more personalised and reassured it’s just been sent to me.”

- Panel member with dexterity, mobility and visual impairment

“I just wish everyone would let you pay with PayPal – it’s just so easy, the website is fully accessible – with providing card details, I can’t see and may not have someone sighted with me to read these out to me.”

- Panel member with visual impairment

Trusted support networks

● Respondents relied heavily on family members or friends for support if they struggled to conduct an activity online or use documents to verify themselves.

● Nearly one in three expressed a preference for contacting a service helpline (i.e. telephone, email or online chat) if they ran into any difficulty completing a process such as a LPA online.

“I would want a live chat service so my questions can be answered then and there. Going somewhere physically for advice is too big a challenge – getting somewhere in my wheelchair is a nightmare.”

– Panel member with mobility and dexterity impairment

Making a LPA

● Respondents were highly reliant on a legal professional for advice and support due to the perceived complexity of the LPA forms, the importance of the LPA and fear of completing the forms incorrectly. However, the cost of this was an issue for many who felt that the OPG should play more of a leading role in providing this guidance and support.

● Most donors worked with a legal professional to complete the application forms on their behalf, whilst 40% completed them themselves. Difficulties completing the forms related to the amount of paperwork, understanding legal and technical jargon and the paper forms not being accessible to them.

● Respondents reported difficulties physically signing the paper forms due to visual or dexterity impairments. Overall, respondents would find it easiest and would prefer signing documents online, provided it’s accessible and security measures are in place. However, despite signing paper forms being considered most difficult, a more or less equal preference was shown for signing documents physically by-hand when compared with signing documents online.

“Some of the terms are too technical for a normal person to understand. I can’t afford for a solicitor to explain these to me.”

- Panel member with mobility, dexterity and visual impairment

Registering a LPA

● 16% of donors had not registered their LPAs due to not being able to afford the re-application fees (due to mistakes made) and difficulties organising signatures and witnesses.

● Those who had registered LPAs themselves, reported problems affording the application fees and physically posting the forms.

● The majority of respondents wanted to receive their registered LPA in both digital and accessible paper format (e.g. braille, large print) to overcome impairment-related difficulties and to have a hard copy to show others when needed.

“With completing and signing a document as important as this, I would feel very reluctant to just do this online - I would print off the forms and read and re-read and then I would think about how I would respond… it’s tedious but I know I’m doing it right.”

- Panel member with visual and mobility impairment

For more information visit the MOJ website..