Refreshed OPG Deputy Standards – What you need to know
Since July 2015, the OPG has had guidance in place for professional and public authority Court of Protection Deputies to ensure that they are fulfilling that role to the highest standard It also set out what is expected of them. This guidance and accompanying checklist assisted professional deputies and their teams to ensure compliance with their duties by having the correct procedures and processes in place.
In February 2023 the OPG refreshed the guidance and published a revised set of standards aimed at helping all court appointed deputies. It was felt that the existing standards could be simpler and there was a gap in that they did not apply to lay deputies (although of course lay deputies are bound by their duties and responsibilities in accordance with their appointment by the Court of Protection).
The most significant change is that the refreshed standards now apply to lay deputies. They are not, however, a completely new set of standards. They build upon those already in place and remain aligned with the Mental Capacity Act.
The standards now centre around eight core areas reflecting the duties and responsibilities of all deputies.
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- Standard 1: Deputyship Obligations
- Standard 2: Best interest decision making.
- Standard 3: Interactions with P
- Standard 4: Financial Management
- Standard 5: Financial record keeping.
- Standard 6: Property management
- Standard 7: Decisions related specifically to health and welfare.
- Standard 8: Additional obligations
The original guidance has been realigned and is now included in the supporting guidance to the above mentioned standards.
There is a link below to the core standards and then separate links to the additional guidance for lay deputies, public authority deputies and professional deputies.
The guidance aims to help professional deputies to meet their responsibilities and make sure that all decisions made are in P’s best interests. It also includes guidance in the areas in which members of staff delegated with deputyship responsibilities should have appropriate knowledge and expertise.
As with the previous professional deputy standards checklist, the refreshed standards and guidance can be used as a checklist to ensure compliance in all key areas and to demonstrate that as a professional deputy you and your teams are aware of the duties and responsibilities in acting in this important role.
All deputies, lay, professional and public authority, will now be supervised against the refreshed standards. The OPG will assess the standards by reviewing the annual report and by carrying out assurance visits and case reviews.
It is worth noting that the standards apply to both property and financial affairs and health and welfare deputies. As is the fact that the OPG still expects professional deputies to have a higher level of technical knowledge and expertise than lay deputies.
For professional deputies, the consequences of failing to adhere to the standards are high and the OPG will consider whether the professional deputy should be discharged from their duties.
It is important to be familiar with the standards and ensure that processes are in place to adhere to them if you are not to fall foul of investigations by the OPG. This can be a difficult and time-consuming process, and the work involved in implementing and training your staff is administrative and you will not be able to charge for this work.
However, once the initial processes are in place then this will benefit both you and P. Once time-efficient processes are in place, time can be spent concentrating on the tasks to manage P affairs, which is ultimately chargeable work.
Consider delegating administrative tasks to your support colleagues. If you do not have appropriate administrative support in place, consider training your staff. Not only will this benefit from a cost perspective, but it will also empower staff who are keen to learn and develop and progress in their legal career.
Whilst not entirely intended as a way of monitoring the activities of deputies, it is nevertheless imperative to implement and apply these standards for the benefit of P and to safeguard P by ensuring all decisions are made in P’s best interest.
The standards themselves are a useful tool and a framework for ensuring that professional deputy work can continue to be provided by professionals, as well as being cost-effective and profitable work.
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