Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments Twenty-Eighth Report


Memorandum from the Lord Chancellor's Department


1. The Committee has asked the Lord Chancellor's Department to submit a memorandum on the following point:

Rule 15(10) increases the winding up fee payable on the death of a patient in a case where a receiver has been appointed from 125 to 360. Explain the reasons for this substantial increase.

2. Under Treasury guidelines, the Court of Protection is required to meet its running costs through fees paid by clients, and such fees must reflect the actual cost of providing the service. The previous fee structure was unrealistic. This was due to a historic lack of investment in the staff of the Public Trust Office (the executive agency that previously carried out administrative functions on behalf of the Court of Protection and in the infrastructure required to deliver the service. The legacy of this under-investment was poor service levels and an unrealistic fee structure which did not reflect the service that was required. In April 2001, the Lord Chancellor set up a new agency, the Public Guardianship Office (PGO) to take over Mental Health and enduring power of attorney functions from the Public Trust Office. The PGO has embarked on a major catch-up programme, including investment in case management IT systems and plans for a smaller, better skilled workforce. This means that the PGO can provide better and more comprehensive levels of service to be delivered to clients, whilst enabling the agency to become more efficient hence limiting the pressure for further increases to fees.

3. The Court of Protection's fee structure was also criticised by the National Audit Office in 1999 because certain categories of clients subsidised services received by others. The Lord Chancellor's Department gave a commitment to the Public Accounts Committee that this cross-subsidy would be brought to an end. The winding up fee was a new fee introduced in September 2000. The fee set then did not cover all the elements of cost associated with winding up. Business analysis carried out during the major programme of change clarified this omission and enabled the PGO to determine the cost of the future service. The PGO has now devised a fees policy that is closely aligned to its business processes and the fee has increased to reflect the true cost of the work involved in closing a case. A major reason for the scale of the increase is that the Court of Protection is now required, following hearings before the Public Accounts Committee, to check final accounts of receivers where the case is closed on the death of the client.

26 April 2002


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