Introduction of powers enabling missing people’s families to manage affairs delayed

The Government’s delay to enable the families of missing people to manage their affairs has meant many have been left to face rising debts.

Whilst a law enabling the family or friends of a missing person to formally manage their utilities and affairs was set to be introduced this year, the Government have indefinitely put it on hold.

The ‘guardianship order’ would mean that families would not be subject to security restrictions around paying the bills or managing the bank account of their missing family member.

At present, the inability to circumvent these rules means that families are blocked from doing so, often leading to debts getting out of control, and leading families to face an additional challenge at an already stressful time.

Many families, including that of Claudia Lawrence who went missing in 2009, are concerned that delaying the powers further could cause yet more problems for the families of missing people.

Following the disappearance of his daughter and the difficulties he faced in handling her affairs, Peter Lawrence successfully campaigned for the legislation, which was subsequently introduced and labelled ‘Claudia’s Law’.

Commenting on the unanticipated struggles faced in dealing with Claudia’s affairs, Peter said: “I didn’t realise that there were these problems until a few weeks after Claudia went missing and then it suddenly hits you that you can’t deal with these matters.

“There was a stocks and shares Isa which matured not long after she disappeared and all the bank could do was stick it in this expense account, so for the past nine years it had not earned any interest or had any increase in value at all, so it has decreased in value,”

“The benefits are enormous, because everything that everybody else does every day as a matter of course, like moving money around, sorting out insurance policies, sorting out mortgages, can’t be done for a missing loved one.

“The impact of any delay just compounds any suffering that people have,” he added.

“Despite this suffering which the Government keeps saying it acknowledges, it’s not a priority for it, and it ought to be.”

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Justice commented: A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “We acted to change the law last year to help distressed families deal with administrative problems following the disappearance of a loved one.

“We are now working to develop the detailed rules of court, regulations and code of practice so that it can be implemented as soon as possible.”

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