It has been reported today that a three-month consultation will examine how technology can be used to reform the process of witnessing, improve access to and speed up the service of LPA creation. Currently, it can take several months for LPAs to be registered with the Public Guardian before they are valid for use, and it is often the case that the documents can be needed swiftly, where individuals are vulnerable and in need of support from their attorney.
We are told that the proposals would see the service become predominantly digital, with alternatives remaining for those unable to use the internet. Undoubtedly, the system does need updating. We have been aware for some time that there has been a desire to draw upon technological advances and apply these to LPA creation - this has inspired mixed opinions. Someone being able to efficiently and effectively put in place arrangements which reflect their wishes is undoubtedly a positive, but there has also been concern about how to ensure that speed is matched by safeguards which are sufficiently robust to protect those who are more vulnerable, for example, if they are less familiar with technology, its processes and the pace at which it moves, and to shield them from exploitation by those who are not well-meaning.
A greater reliance on technology could likely mean, for some, a greater need to rely on another person’s assistance to navigate that digital platform. Whether that individual has good intentions or otherwise can be particularly difficult to establish, especially when matters are being dealt with via a screen rather than in person. We are told that the government will look at making the process of objecting to an LPA simpler, as well as introducing new safeguards to protect against fraud and abuse. It will be imperative to understand the extent of those safeguards and how tough they are, and we trust that individuals will continue to be made aware of the risks that can be involved in creating LPAs without appropriate legal advice, and the benefits and peace of mind that can be secured having obtained that appropriate advice and guidance.