The average property and financial affairs deputy application now takes 48 weeks to process from start to finish, new figures have revealed.
Experts say the delays – caused partly by the coronavirus pandemic – are having a significant impact on the wellbeing of those with impaired decision-making capacity and their families.
Through the Court of Protection, anyone can apply to become someone’s deputy if they “lack mental capacity to make a decision for themselves at the time it needs to be made”.
This may include people who have suffered a serious brain injury or illness, those with dementia, or those with severe learning disabilities.
However, the most recent statistics suggest that general property and affairs applications to the Court of Protection now take some 48 weeks to complete, while personal welfare deputyship applications take up to 27.4 weeks to complete.
It means that critical healthcare and financial decisions, such as paying bills, are unable to be deferred and may potentially be causing significant hardship.
The statistics also show that applications for property and affairs deputyships have risen 51.69 per cent over the past six months, compared with the previous six months.
Commenting on the delays, Holly Mieville-Hawkins, a member of the Law Society’s Wills and Equity Committee, said: “This is hugely significant as behind each and every application is a person or a family experiencing distress and uncertainty.
“These problems are real, and impact the most vulnerable in our society. More staff are being trained, but it is clear that unless there is substantial additional investment in the Court system, these statistics will simply continue to become more worrying.”
It was also revealed last month that annual Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) registrations had fallen sharply during the coronavirus pandemic. According to the MoJ, there was a 30 per cent drop in LPAs registered between April 2020 and February 2021, compared to the previous 12 months.
Those who had delayed registering an LPA at the beginning of lockdown should take action now, as an LPA can only be registered while you have mental capacity.