Clearance times for lasting powers of attorney (LPA) applications have doubled in five years, the Gazette can reveal – as figures provided by the Ministry of Justice show the number of permanent full-time equivalent posts has fallen while the number of agency staff has increased.
Responding to a freedom of information request on delays, the MoJ said LPAs are currently taking up to 20 weeks to process. The average clearance time for LPA applications in May 2022 was 82 days. The average actual clearance time in 2021/22 was 69 days, up from 34 days in 2017/18.
Applications are considered to be in the backlog if more than 40 days have passed since the application process commenced.
The current backlog of applications stood at 160,422 at the end of the 2021/22 financial year. The ministry said that prior to that year, only numbers of total applications being processed were held. No separate backlog figures were available because ‘there had, historically, been no backlog’.
The ministry said the Birmingham office, where LPAs are processed, is currently operating at 100% capacity. ‘Frontline staff work shift patterns to process applications around the clock and senior members of staff have been in the office every day since the start of the pandemic.’
Asked how many permanent staff are employed by the OPG, figures show that the number of full-time equivalent permanent posts has dropped over the past three years while the number of agency staff has increased.
There were 1,333.5 permanent full-time equivalent posts in May 2022, down from 1,411.7 in December 2019. The OPG employed 230.9 agency staff in May 2022, compared with 145.2 just over two years earlier.
While processing times remain higher than before the pandemic, the ministry said the number of LPAs being registered each month was back to pre-pandemic levels.
‘We’ve also announced plans to allow people to make an LPA completely online for the first time, while retaining a paper process for those unable to use the internet. Digitilisation will help reduce errors, making sure they are flagged and fixed earlier, and help to slash waiting times.’
In May, the government unveiled plans to modernise LPAs and speed up the registration process. A statutory waiting period will remain as part of the objections process for registering an LPA. However, the government will investigate what the appropriate length should be in a future service, accounting for other changes to the objections process across digital and paper channels.