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Undaunted public guardian sets out digital plans



The agency responsible for individuals who have lost the capacity to manage their own affairs has unveiled a plan to go 'digital by default' by next year. The Office of Public Guardian is behind one of the Government Digital Service's 'exemplar' digital public services projects, to enable people to register lasting powers of attorney (LPAs) partly online.

The office, an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice, administers lasting powers of attorney (LPA) and enduring powers of attorney, which allow people to choose who they want to make decisions on their behalf were they to lose mental capacity. It also supervises deputies appointed by the Court of Protection to look after the affairs of individuals without the capacity to do so themselves. It has now published its first digital strategy.

According to the strategy, the office plans to "build a digital deputyships service, to make it possible for deputies (and the visitors who form part of OPG's supervision programme) to interact with us entirely online". It will also "develop a pipeline of digital products and services to deliver the best value for our customers and stakeholders with the resources we have" and to embrace agile project management methodology and principles.

However the strategy does not immediately revive the ambition to put the LPA process fully online. Last month the office conceded that there was no immediate replacement for wet signatures on forms after a consultation attracted criticism from lawyers and others. The Ministry of Justice said it would "build on the feedback received and work with key stakeholders to refine our proposal for a fully digital LPA and consult with the public when we have a fuller picture of how the digital tool will operate".

"This is an exciting time for OPG," said Alan Eccles, chief executive and public guardian." This digital strategy means a lot to us: it will enable us to improve our customer service and realise our ambitions for growth while contributing to cross-government strategy. This in turn will make life easier for our hard-working staff and our customers."

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