Financial abuse cuts LPAs short

Local authorities are striking off record numbers of those trusted with the finances of an individual lacking mental capacity.

A power of attorney (LPA) arrangement can be set up by a donor, in order to nominate an individual to take charge of their affairs and make decisions on their behalf, should they lose capacity.

Although in recent years numbers of new arrangements registered has grown significantly, so has the level of investigation into potential and existing LPAs, with some even being discharged for misconduct.

In 2013, 68 attorneys and deputies were removed due to alleged theft or financial mismanagement, according to data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. In 2014, this number grew to 203 and then dropped slightly in 2015 to 172. In comparison to 2013 however, this still equates to a rise of 153%. The number of new applications to register LPAs only rose by 73% over the same period.

From 2013 to 2015, the number of investigations into attorneys and deputies regarding financial wrongdoing has also risen; the number recorded in 2015 was 398 higher than 2013.

Ben Tyer was responsible for filing the original data request. The solicitor from GLP Solicitors commented on the increasingly frequent scenario of attorneys making decisions in their own interest: “Financial abuse is perhaps more widespread than is thought, so loved ones, local authorities and banks should be alert to the signs.”

There are two types of LPA agreements, with one relating to health and well-being and the other applying to property and finance.

Where an individual loses mental capacity and an LPA has not been set up, family and friends are required to apply to the Court of Protection, a process which incurs fees as well as resulting in bank account access being blocked.

It is also suggested that these incidences may rise further, as dementia and Alzheimer’s was recently found to have been the biggest killer in 2015.

Commenting on the recent death statistics was Rachael Griffin from pension and investment company, Old Mutual Wealth. She expressed the importance of appointing an LPA due to decision making powers not automatically being passed to the next of kin: “Donors can appoint attorneys that are friends, relatives or professionals – such as solicitors. It is a personal decision. You need to be able to place complete trust in that person and you need to decide whether they should always make joint decisions or be allowed to act separately.

“People shouldn’t be put off putting a lasting power of attorney in place. There is not an automatic right for next-of- kin to make decisions on a person’s behalf, so a lasting power of attorney can make all the difference.”

A spokesman for the Office of Public Guardian also commented on the importance of protecting those most susceptible to risk: “Safeguarding vulnerable people is our priority.

“There are currently over two million registered lasting powers of attorney and around 58,000 deputyship orders. Any incidents of fraud or wrongdoing are taken very seriously; however these are rare.

“The increase in those discharged from their duties is due to better investigations. We take swift action if any abuse is reported and can refer cases to the Court of Protection to revoke a lasting powers of attorney or deputyship order, where wrongdoing is found.”

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