Cork, Ireland – Enduring Powers of Attorney (EPAs) are an essential legal protection for vulnerable people at risk of losing mental capacity. EPAs allow people to organise their affairs in advance so that if they lose mental capacity their affairs will be managed in accordance with their wishes. EPAs have been a staple of legal practice since 1996 and have worked very well.
New System For EPAs Proving Technically Complex And Difficult To Navigate
A new system for creating Enduring Powers of Attorney (EPAs), was introduced by the newly established Decision Support Service (DSS), in April 2023 and is proving troublesome to many users. This is especially concerning for individuals less adept at using technology – who are often those most in need of an EPA.
The new obligatory online system is proving too complex and off-putting for many, including solicitors traditionally involved in the process.
According to a survey by the Solicitors Growth Community, only 15% of solicitors feel prepared to continue providing EPA-related services under this new system. The majority expressed hesitation, with 42% declining outright, and 43% remaining undecided. Full survey results can be found here.
Flor McCarthy, Founder and Director of Solicitors Growth and Managing Partner of McCarthy + Co. Solicitors LLP, criticised the new system, saying: “We had a perfectly good system for creating EPAs since 1996. It was simple, accessible, affordable, effective, confidential, and didn’t require complexity unless necessary.”
When asked about the factors contributing to their hesitation, solicitors cited lack of access to the new system as a major concern. This was evidenced when 72% of solicitors agreed they would participate if a paper-based system was available. An even larger number, 81%, agreed to engage if an agent portal was provided for direct access.
New System Discards A Good Paper-Based System Without A Workable Alternative And Makes EPAs Harder For Those Who Need Them Most
The DSS has consistently denied plans to provide such a portal, despite the fact that they are a common feature of state agencies dealing with the public via third party professionals. This creates an unfortunate barrier between solicitors and the people they aim to assist.
Despite eight years of preparation for the DSS since the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act of 2015, the move to an online portal was never mentioned before its introduction, leaving the legal profession unprepared and unable to serve the public effectively.
This lack of consultation with the legal profession prior to this drastic change is alarming. The goal of the DSS’s new system, presumably, was to expand the uptake of an already successful system of EPAs. Yet, without adjustments, it may deter the creation of EPAs, leaving vulnerable individuals at risk.
Safeguarding Ireland urges all adults to establish an EPA to protect against future adult abuse risk. However, this new system seems to expose those it intends to protect to greater potential harm.
About the Solicitors Growth Community
The Solicitors Growth Community is Ireland’s largest independent community of mutual support and collegiality for Irish legal professionals. Its mission is to support solicitors, both professionally and personally, and enable members to deliver excellent legal services benefiting clients and society as a whole.
Founder Director, Solicitors Growth
Phone: 023 888 00 88