At the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) we are committed to providing better and more efficient services to our users.
Over the past few months myself and a team of colleagues from across OPG have been doing further work on how we can improve creating, registering and using LPAs.
Where to begin
Because we always start with user needs, we asked our users to feedback on the LPA service. What are their experiences? What are their expectations? And how can we improve these?
Start with Discovery
At the beginning of the summer we began a 10 week discovery phase - speaking to users (citizens, legal professionals, charities, banks and utility companies), other government departments and agencies, service providers and colleagues from across OPG to make sure we have a really good understanding of what the user needs are when creating an LPA.
We’ve not long finished this phase and are still working through all the information but a few things have stood out.
Paper is a problem
Most problems people encounter are associated with the ‘piece of paper’ (the official LPA form), often resulting in delays in registering the form. Such as:
- not signing in the right order
- missing signatures or dates
- getting the right pages to the right people, often over long distances
- mixing pages up
- missing pages
- sending the one registered LPA to multiple organisations
We also noticed that many people's perception around signatures and their use has changed - they value this process less and less.
The online LPA service also caused confusion with users. They didn’t understand why they needed to print and post the LPA application once completed online.
Developing a digital LPA could solve a lot of these problems, as well as reducing costs of postage and printing for both users and OPG.
Looking into this further we discovered that 96% of current reasons for errors at registration (like the ones mentioned above) could be eliminated with the removal of paper.
Of course there were some users who at this time preferred to use paper and this is important to keep in mind. There are no current plans to remove paper forms.
Security and Safeguarding
When discussing digital LPAs, user's primary concern was security. Such as:
- that people are who they say they are
- that their data and information is safe
- that people can’t make LPAs fraudulently
- that attorneys know what they are agreeing to
Safeguarding is extremely important to OPG and we would be looking to increase security checks, not decrease them. It’s also helpful to keep in mind we aren’t doing this alone. We have been speaking with a number of public and private sector organisations, who verify identity online now, or who are exploring how to do so.
The Discovery phase has shown us that there is a need and want for a digital LPA. The benefits to both external and internal users are numerous, but there are challenges to overcome.
Our next steps will be to widen the scope of our Discovery work, to explore potential options which could better meet user needs. We need to get feedback from a range of users on what this could look like and how it could work best for them.
We would welcome responses from individuals who would be willing to spend a few hours with us looking at potential options. To volunteer please email me on Caroline.Hufton2@publicguardian.gsi.gov.uk.