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Panel Deputy Review 13.07.10 OPG Panel Deputies NEWS The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) will launch the campaign to recruit the new panel of Deputies on 16th August. The campaign will run for 8 weeks. Applications will be by form and the OPG will accept up to 2 pages of additional evidence in Arial size 11 font. The Service Level Agreement (SLA) & criteria will be made available along with the application form on this web page. The Panel will be much smaller than at present consisting of only 60 deputies. The new Panel will be active from 1st April 2011, and will replace the existing Panel for future appointments. Members of the existing Panel will retain all current Clients. BACKGROUND The Panel is a list of approved professional Deputies referred to by the Court of Protection (CoP) in situations where nobody closer to the Client is willing or able to act. The Panel of Deputies are responsible for supporting Clients by managing their financial needs. Panel Deputies are not guaranteed cases but have to apply and be approved by the Court. For more information on the duties of a Deputy, visit: http://www.publicguardian.gov.uk/decisions/deputy‐roles‐responsibilities.htm. Reviewing the Panel Deputies arrangements: OPG consulted panel members, members of the judiciary and staff and managers in the OPG and CoP, as well as representatives of the legal and social care professions. Through interviews and workshops, we identified the difficulties presented by the current arrangement. We also looked at our records and used statistical analysis to determine whether the size and geographic spread of panel members was appropriate to the needs of Clients and the Court. OPG’s web survey in December, which sought to test the desirability of the numerous possible outcomes of the review, received over 400 responses. Issues identified by the review: Rejection of cases The biggest single issue affecting the CoP is the difficulty of identifying a willing Deputy for difficult cases, principally because members of the panel are too willing to reject these referrals in favour of more straightforward, low‐maintenance cases. This can lead to delays in appointing a Deputy, as time is spent referring each case to a succession of panel members, leaving Clients vulnerable for longer. Panel Deputy Review 13.07.10 Size of the Panel Additionally, the Panel itself is, from the Court’s perspective, too large, offering a surfeit of choice and making it difficult to distinguish between the relative merits of different Deputies in any given case. An analysis of referral volumes validates the assertion that the Panel is too large. Around 220 cases are referred to panel members each year: a significantly lower number than in 2001, when the Panel was established. As a result, fewer than half of all panel members received a case referral in the last year. In fact, a number of panel members have not received a referral for several years. This was the most commonly raised issue in our dialogue with panel members. Diversity The diversity of organisations represented on the Panel gave some respondents cause for concern. While the Lord Chancellor’s initial recommendations placed great emphasis on the need to include a variety of organisations from the private and third sector, solicitors now outnumber all other members by a ratio of 99 to 1. In this respect, the composition of the panel is far from representative of the wider Deputyship community. The option that emerged as the favourite was a new smaller Panel, supported with improved processes and clearer SLAs between the OPG and panel members… The smaller Panel would provide a more reliable supply of referrals to members, facilitating better planning, and would create a more cohesive community of Deputies. A smaller Panel would also allow us at the OPG to dedicate more resource to maintaining contact with panel members and fostering a closer, more productive and dynamic relationship. OPG will take steps to ensure that the court has access to current information on the skills and changing caseloads of panel members, and that this is used to inform the objective selection of an appropriate panel member in each case. OPG have refreshed the skills profiles used by the CoP to select the most appropriate deputy, bringing the available skills into line with the current legislative and cultural environment. To ensure our information is valid, and remains so, we will implement a joined‐up approach between administration of the Panel and our supervision of panel members. “We hope to create a more diverse Panel, and one which better fits the needs of those for whom the panel was established. The OPG’s panel of Deputies was created to safeguard the interests of some of our most vulnerable clients: people for whom no one else is willing, able or suitable to act. Some of these clients live in isolation; some live in a situation of intense family conflict. Members and wouldbe members alike should be aware of this, and should show commitment to undertaking work of this nature. We hope to get applicants who are suitably equipped, both culturally and in terms of resource, to manage the more difficult, intensive cases, while minimising the cost to the Client, and able to demonstrate an on going commitment on this basis.” OPG Panel Deputies Project Panel Deputy Review 13.07.10 For further information on Panel Deputies and making an application, please contact either the Panel Deputies team: OPGPanelDeputies@publicguardian.gsi.gov.uk.
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