If you’re acting as a property and affairs Deputy then you will almost certainly need to submit an annual report of your activities to the Office of the Public Guardian. The first report is usually due for completion 12 months after the making of the order appointing you and then annually thereafter.
For those of you who embrace the digital options in life, there is the good news that you can now submit your reports online!
On receipt of your Deputy case number from the OPG you can register for an online account using the following link:
The report is divided into several sections and once the account has been set up the sections entitled ‘Decisions’, ‘Contacts’, ‘Visits and Care’ can be completed at any time during the reporting period and the details you input will be saved so that they can be returned to at any time prior to submission.
There’s also a ‘Notes’ section which is for your personal use and is not viewable by the Public Guardian. This is a useful tool for keeping the sort of general notes and/or reminders that will help you finalise the report when you get to the year end.
Top Tips for a Deputy Completing their Annual OPG Financial Report Online
Make sure all the details completed in the “Client Profile” section are correct to include the reporting period
Keep a record of your decision making throughout the year
This section helpfully reminds you of the due date for submission of your online report and the period which it covers. It is automatically populated by the OPG but do make sure that the information is correct.
The Public Guardian will want to know about:
- The decisions you have made as Deputy
- How you involved the person you represent (known as ‘P’) in the decision making process
- Who else you consulted before making decisions and why you consulted them
The ability to add to this section throughout the year can be really useful as it will save you having to remember all the decisions you have made or the need to keep a paper diary.
It is very important that you only make the decisions which you are authorised to make and the Public Guardian requires all Deputies to demonstrate that they have the necessary authority to make the decisions they have made.
The Senior Judge of the Court has made it clear that specific authority is required to conduct litigation on behalf of P unless it is litigation in the Court of Protection in respect of a property and financial affairs. Specific authority is also needed to use P’s funds to reimburse a third party instructed to act on behalf of P and this includes costs incurred by a member of P’s family. A property and affairs Deputy has no authority to make decisions that impact exclusively on health and welfare matters, unless stated in the court order and the pursuit of litigation for Continuing Health Care funding appeals, and Education, Health and Care Plans also require specific authorisation from the court, as all of this work falls outside the scope of the general authority of a finance and property affairs Deputy.
So when completing the sections of the report headed ‘Decisions’ and/or ‘Actions you plan to take’ make sure that when appropriate you seek the courts permission and/or tell the OPG what you have done or your intentions. If you run out of space add the information to the ‘Any other information’ section of the report.
You can read more about the need to seek Court approval to certain courses of action here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/new-guidance-for-deputies-in-response-to-acc-judgement
The online report has a section called ‘Contacts’ in which you are asked about the people who have helped you to make significant decisions as a Deputy.
This can be hard to remember at the end of a year particularly if there have been lots of decisions to make. It’s worth taking a few moments every month to log on and complete this section whilst those decisions are fresh in your memory.
Keep a record of your visits to P and if possible the visits of others
The Public Guardian will also want to know how frequently you have visited P and who else has visited them. You record this in the section called ‘Visits and care’ If you see P regularly such as every day or several times a week you won’t need to keep a record of every visit. If you only visit occasionally, the ability to add the dates of those visits to your report throughout the year is helpful.
If P is receiving care from a commercial provider remember to request an up to date care plan from that provider and in good time before the deputyship year ends. The Public Guardian will want to know that a care plan is in place and you can upload a copy to attach to your report.
Keep a record of payments and receipts throughout the year
The Accounts Section of the report requires you to enter details of your deputyship bank account(s) and the balance of the accounts at the beginning and end of the reporting period.
There are three sections of the Account called – ‘Money in’, ‘Money transfers’ and ‘Money out’ and this is where you record all the receipts, movement of funds and expenditure. Try to avoid the ‘carrier bag’ method of record keeping. Sorting through receipts at the end of the year and trying to make sense of them can be hard work and make life unnecessarily stressful. In addition, receipts sometimes fade and become difficult to read.
We recommend the use of a simple spreadsheet on your computer which details all the income and expenditure. If you develop the habit of entering the details at least once a month, perhaps when the bank statement arrives that can make life easier.
If you can set up your spreadsheet so that the categories of expenditure and income match the categories used in the online report you will be able to easily transfer the information at the end of the reporting period.
If you prefer, individual income and expenditure transactions can also be added to the online account at anytime throughout the annual reporting period.
Don’t muddle up funds
You should be managing all financial transactions through your Deputyship Bank Account and not mixing P’s funds with anyone else’s including your own. If you do make a financial transaction for P using your own funds, make sure that there is a clear record of why and how this happened and how it has been resolved so that you can demonstrate this to the Public Guardian. You can add this information to the online report in the section which allows you to provide ‘Any other information’.
Plan ahead if you need information from others in relation to Gifts, Assets & Debts
Look through the form ahead of time and see if you need to write to anyone for additional information, this may include:-
- A mortgage provider
- The financial advisor who manages any investments
- The Court Funds Office if funds are held there
- The Trustees of any trust from which P benefits
- A person or organisation to whom money is owed
Contact them as soon as you reach the end of the reporting period so that you get a response in good time for filing your online report. The online version of the report helpfully carries over details of the Assets from the previous reporting period once you have filed your initial report.
If you have used P’s funds to make gifts or are contemplating doing so in the year ahead the Public Guardian has published a new blog ‘Giving gifts as an attorney or deputy.’ The full article can be found at: https://publicguardian.blog.gov.uk/2020/12/16/giving-gifts-as-an-attorney-or-deputy/ and offers a useful guide.
Keep a list of P’s assets
You will need to declare these in the ‘Assets’ section of the report so keep a record of assets that are acquired and disposed of throughout the year so that your list is up to date at the end of the year. You could use the ‘Notes’ section of the on-line form to keep track of these throughout the year – remember the Public Guardian doesn’t see those notes they are there just to remind you.
Identify who else you may need help from
The Public Guardian will need an approximate value for items such as cars and other personal assets and investments which are not managed by professionals. You may be able to value these assets using websites such as reputable motoring organisations, trade press, banks or the company with whom shares are held. Or you may need to contact other organisations such as the Court Funds Office and request details. Remember to allow sufficient time to request and receive these details as you are working to a deadline and it sometimes takes a little while for these valuations to be prepared.
Make sure you have claimed all the benefits or other statutory funding to which P is entitled
As a Deputy you are under a duty to claim these so make sure that you have done so and are able to show that the right amounts are being paid. Entitlement to state benefits will change over time and an annual benefits review is recommended.
If P is receiving funds from the Local Authority or a Clinical Commissioning Group make sure that their entitlement reflects their needs and if these have changed during the year – seek a review.
Try not to be late
You will have a period of two months from the anniversary date of your appointment in which to submit your report online. If time is against you, request an extension from the Public Guardian, they will usually agree to an additional four week period. It is better to ask for an extension than to just to hope that the deadline will go away or be forgotten – it won’t. The Public Guardian can seek to remove Deputies who fail to comply with their obligations and that includes their obligation to file their annual report.
Last but by no means least – don’t forget to use a strong password not only for your online account with the OPG but also your computer if it contains sensitive information about P such as details of financial expenditure and their assets.
If you’re concerned about your annual report or any other issues raised in this article please feel free to contact us – were always happy to help.
About Hyphen Law
Brain Injury Group member firm Hyphen Law is a specialist Court of Protection law firm focusing on Deputyship Services and Personal Injury Trusts.
About Sarah Hyde and Christine Bunting
Sarah Hyde is a paralegal specialising in the completion of reports to the Public Guardian. Christine Bunting has over 30 years’ experience o dealing with Court of Protection work and the creation and management of personal injury trusts. She specialises in the management of high-value personal injury awards arising from complex catastrophic injury and clinical negligence cases.
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