Persons who lack family support can now appoint Professional Donees in a Lasting Power of Attorney
1. The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) has launched the Professional Deputies and Donees (PDD) scheme to allow registered professionals in the community to step up and provide assistance to persons who lack family support. These persons would include single elderly and those who are childless.
2. A certification course to train the first batch of professionals was held in July 2018. 24 professionals attended the certification course and passed the examination.
3. The PDD scheme allows registered professionals to provide deputyship or doneeship services for remuneration. For individuals who did not make an LPA and have lost mental capacity, a professional deputy can apply to the Family Justice Courts to act for them. PDDs must not be related to the person whom they are appointed to act for to avoid any conflict of interest.
5. The Public Guardian, Ms Regina Chang, shared, “It is heartening to see professionals across multiple sectors stepping up and offering their support to the individuals in our society who do not have strong family networks to depend on. OPG will continue to work closely with partners like the Courts to ensure that the appointed Deputies act professionally and are accountable for the decisions they make on behalf of the person who has lost mental capacity.”
Strengthening the Safeguards in place
6. OPG recognises the importance of putting in place safeguards to protect vulnerable persons who have lost mental capacity. A robust registration framework for PDDs was developed with consultation from representatives from various organisations across the legal, accounting, and social service sector.
7. They have met the stringent qualifying set of criteria to be registered as PDDs. The PDDs now know their responsibilities and duties as appointed proxy-decision makers, and are trained to carry those duties in the best interests of the person who has lost mental capacity.
8. Court appointed PDDs are required to furnish an annual report to OPG on the persons under their care. If any PDD is found to have abused their powers, the Public Guardian may seek a Court order under the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) to suspend or revoke the powers of the appointed PDD. PDDs are also registered with their respective regulatory professional bodies, where they would have to fulfil and maintain high standards of discipline and professionalism.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ON THE
PROFESSIONAL DEPUTIES AND DONEES (PDD) SCHEME
1. How much will professional donees charge for their services? How do I know they are not charging excessively? Will OPG provide guidelines on the fees to be charged?
Remuneration for services will be based on the scope of work for each client. The asset size and tasks required may vary greatly across clients, which would result in varying fees.
For professional deputies, the Court will determine if the proposed fees charged are reasonable.
For professional donees, the donor and professional donees will mutually agree on the fees to be charged for the services provided as they are appointed by the donor when he has mental capacity.
As this is a nascent industry, we prefer to let the market evolve based on the above approach. The OPG will monitor the situation during this stage.
2. What safeguards are in place to ensure that professional deputies act in the best interests of the person who has lost mental capacity and do not charge excessively for their services?
OPG has put in place strong safeguards to ensure that professional deputies and donees act in the best interests of the person who has lost mental capacity.
Firstly, a robust registration framework has been designed to ensure the quality of professional deputies and donees. In addition to attending a certification course and passing an examination, professional deputies must pass the stringent eligibility criteria..
In addition, as part of the application to Court for the professional deputyship appointment, professional deputies must submit a schedule of the tasks they intend to carry out and the fees to be charged for each task. The Court must be duly satisfied that the fees charged are commensurate with the effort to carry out those tasks before granting the Court order.
Professional deputies are also required to submit an annual report to the Public Guardian (PG) to account for all decisions and expenses incurred in the course of carrying out their duties. This is where PG’s supervisory function comes in, and where any potential concerns will be flagged out and where necessary, taking action to rectify any lapses, for example, returning unauthorised withdrawals from P’s bank account.
Under the registration framework for professional deputies, PG has the ability to revoke the registration of a professional deputy if the latter has been found to not have fulfilled his/her duties properly.
3. How does OPG ensure that professional donees act in the best interests of persons who have lost mental capacity?
Under the MCA, PG is able to investigate alleged violations by a donee or court-appointed deputy, which includes looking into complaints on how donees and deputies are exercising their powers.
OPG takes all complaints seriously, and will take action against any donee or deputy who is found not to have acted in the best interests of the person who has lost mental capacity. PDDs are also registered with their respective regulatory professional bodies, where they would have to fulfil and maintain high standards of discipline and professionalism.
4. Are professional donees required to submit annual reports to OPG?
As part of PG’s Terms and Conditions for registration as a professional deputy, all professional deputies who are acting as professional donees will have to inform PG on the activation of their professional doneeship under a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). Professional donees will also have to provide PG with the following documents:
a. A written assessment by a registered medical practitioner of the donor’s loss of mental capacity
b. A schedule of assets of the donor who has lost mental capacity (“P”)
c. A P-focused plan on key decisions to be made i.e. on financial matters and care arrangements.
PG will monitor the activation of professional donees. Professional donees are also required to submit reports to account for major transactions made on behalf of P. The frequency of reporting may vary depending on the circumstances of each case.
5. Why aren’t there more professionals who can provide doneeship or deputyship services?
The Professional Deputies and Donees scheme aims to address the needs of individuals, in particular seniors who are without family support. These seniors may wish to make an LPA, but may not have a next of kin to appoint as their donees. This scheme ensures that such individuals are supported in their decision-making.
MSF will continue efforts to raise awareness of making an LPA early, and to encourage individuals to involve their family members in such decisions. In 2017, more than 95% of donees appointed in LPAs were the donor’s immediate or extended family. MSF is therefore training these professional deputies for a start. We will monitor the demand for such services, as well as the uptake of professionals over the next few years to calibrate the pool of professional deputies required to meet demand.
6. What are the eligibility criteria for registering as a professional deputy?
Apart from passing the certification course, professionals must meet additional criteria, which includes:
(i) Relevant experience with mental capacity cases, or a continuous period of at least five years of experience in their respective fields of work
(ii) No financial embarrassment (e.g. not undischarged bankrupts and must have a good credit rating)
(iii) Not be convicted of criminal offences such as crimes against a person or public order, or be the subject of a civil judgement involving breach of fiduciary duties
7. What were the PDDs tested on as part of the certification course?
The professionals who attended the certification course were tested on the general principles of deputyship. Professionals who wish to be appointed with powers to manage property & affairs or personal welfare matters would have to pass the respective modules.
We hold a high standard for our prospective PDDs. The passing mark for the examination is 70%, in addition to attending the certification course. The purpose of imposing such high standards is to ensure that the professionals are well-equipped to carry out their duties.
8. When is the next run of the certification course and examination?
The certification course will be held twice a year and the next run of the certification course will be in the first half of 2019. More details of the next run of the course will be shared in due course. Interested persons could email PDDEnquiry@publicguardian.gov.sg
to register their interest.