A note from the Society on the current impact of the pandemic

COVID-19 has an enormous impact on the Office of the Public Guardian’s normal processes and procedures, as it has across the legal and justice sectors.

The Society has been liaising closely with OPG and has raised queries and concerns brought to us by solicitors. We have been assured that OPG is actively seeking ways to address these and manage the impact of delays brought about by the pandemic.

While there is currently a substantial delay in processing powers of attorney, dating back to mid-September 2020, OPG continues to offer an expedited registration (registration within five working days) where there is a genuine emergency. OPG publishes processing times for PoAs and details of the expedited process each week on its website.

OPG is taking additional steps to address delays, which include:

  • additional staff resources;
  • scoping and introducing a new and innovative case management system which will improve efficiencies within the current registration process;
  • plans to make the public register of adults with incapacity cases available online during 2021. This will make it easier for parties to search the register themselves to confirm whether, for example, an attorney or guardian has been appointed, make the process more effective, and free up OPG resources to tackle PoAs and other critical work;
  • weekend overtime continuing for the foreseeable.

In respect of guardianships, solicitors must now take account of the “stop the clock” provisions of the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020. These require new expiry dates to be calculated for guardianships which were in existence when the provisions came into force. Solicitors can read more in the Scottish Government’s guidance.

Currently the OPG system continues to generate letters regarding expiry of guardianships based on the original expiry dates, which do not accommodate the 176 days added by the emergency legislation, although these letters are accompanied by leaflets which highlight the effect of the “stop the clock” provisions and advise the guardian to seek legal advice. Solicitors should be aware of this when advising guardians seeking to renew a guardianship order.

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