Safeguarding Ireland has called for a major increase in the number of adults making an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA), in order to safeguard and reduce adult abuse.
Just 6% of adults have an Enduring Power of Attorney
New research by RED C has found that just 6% of Irish adults have an EPA in place – which leaves people at greater risk of abuse and exploitation if they lack capacity to make decisions due to illness, disability or frailty.
Safeguarding Ireland is this week leading a nationwide public awareness campaign to encourage more adults to plan ahead, talk with their Solicitor and make an Enduring Power of Attorney.
RED C was commissioned to carry out a survey on a nationally representative sample of adults (1,000 people) on understanding of and attitudes to EPAs. The main reasons why the vast majority of adults had not made an EPA included:
- 36% – never thought about it
- 27% – had no current concerns about their capacity and believed they didn’t need it
- 12% – believed they were too young to need one
- 9% – didn’t understand why they would need one
- 5% – didn’t know who they would appoint
- 4% – were concerned that it would be expensive.
Safeguarding Ireland Chairperson Patricia Rickard-Clarke said the level of take up of EPAs is closer to 30-40% in other European countries and she encouraged much greater take up in Ireland.
“An EPA gives legal clarity. It makes people’s wishes and preferences known and they can be followed. It reduces confusion, tension and problems in families including financial abuse and misuse of property and personal welfare. The vast majority of people are honest, but unfortunately international research has shown that up to 10% of people are dishonest in their use of another person’s money or property.
“To make an EPA people must make an appointment with a Solicitor and appoint their most trusted person with authority to make future decisions about their finances, property and personal welfare if needed.
“An EPA also sets out what decisions the appointed person, or Attorney, can make and provides guidance on the person’s wishes and preferences. Having an EPA in place is not just better for the person themselves – it’s also much better for family, friends and professionals.
Safeguarding Ireland warns on widespread misunderstanding of ‘Next of Kin’
“When there is no EPA in place, there are risks. Close family members may be asked to help with decisions as a ‘next of kin’. However, next of kin is highly misunderstood in this country. A next of kin has no legal authority. A next of kin may not know a person’s wishes, and in some case may abuse their position and theft and crime occurs.
“Safeguarding Ireland therefore encourages all adults to make an EPA and to safeguard themselves against future risk of adult abuse.”
In terms of take up of EPAs the RED C survey found:
- 6% people said they currently have an Enduring Power of Attorney
- Take up was highest among 18-34 year olds at 8%, followed by those aged 55+ at 7% and 9% for over 65s. It was lower for middle age cohorts at just 4%
- Higher income social class groupings were much more likely to have an EPA at 11%
- Uptake was higher in Dublin at 9%, and it was notably lower in Connacht / Ulster at 3%.
A detailed information booklet on making an EPA is available here. View information booklet.
Ronan Cavanagh, Cavanagh Communications: (086) 317 9731.
Safeguarding means putting measures in place to uphold rights by supporting health and well-being and reducing the risk of harm. It involves families, services and professionals working together to prevent adult abuse, neglect or coercive control. It also involves neighbourhoods and local communities. Types of abuse include emotional and psychological, physical, financial, sexual, organisational, online or discrimination.
Safeguarding Ireland is an independent organisation, registered with both the Companies Registration Office and the Charities Regulatory Authority. Its main objective is to promote safeguarding of adults who may be vulnerable, protect them from all forms of abuse by persons, organisations and institutions and develop a national plan for promoting their welfare. This is achieved by promoting inter-sectoral collaboration, developing public and professional awareness and education, and undertaking research to inform policy, practice and legislation.
MORE INFORMATION on an Enduring Power of Attorney
Reduce the risk of Adult Abuse
Making an enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) can be challenging and requires thought and discussion, but it is a very important safeguard to ensure that to the greatest possible extent retaining legal control of finances, property and personal welfare into the future. A lack of clarity can create confusion, tension and also temptation among family and loved ones who may not know, or respect a person’s wishes. Some people use a situation to their own advantage.
Who is most at risk?
An EPA is recommended for all adults and it is never too early to put one in place. It is especially important for adults who are:
- Older and frail
- Have less ability to understand and make decisions for themselves
- Have a serious, sudden, or life-changing illness
- Have an intellectual, or physical disability
- Live under the control of a person who is abusive.
Making an EPA
Making an EPA means discussing a person’s affairs with a chosen person (or more than one person), and appointing them with legal authority to make financial, property and personal welfare decisions if in the future a person no longer has decision-making capacity. An EPA is a legal document so to make one an appointment must be made with a Solicitor. Some people may qualify for legal aid.
What decisions are included
In an EPA authority can be given for two types of decisions: 1) Property and Affairs decisions and 2) Personal Welfare decisions.
Property and Affairs decisions include:
- Controlling and managing property and finances
- Managing, buying, selling, renting or mortgaging any property
- Making sure bills are paid including paying your taxes and entering into contracts
- Housing, social welfare or other benefits.
Personal Welfare decisions include:
- Participation in employment, education or training
- Participation in social activities
- Decisions on social services.
Selection of a trusted person
An EPA includes setting out what decisions are being given to the trusted person to make, and also guidance for them on wishes and preferences. The person appointed is called an ‘Attorney’ (not a legal person) and an Attorney can be a family member, or a good friend.
Statement as to Decision-Making Capacity
A statement from a healthcare professional is required to clarify that at the time of making an EPA, the person making it has capacity. Once completed by a Solicitor, an EPA must be registered with the Decision Support Service (DSS), which a Solicitor can advise on.
Steps for an EPA to come into force
If in the future a person lacks capacity it is then necessary to get a statement from a healthcare professional, who has carried out an assessment, to confirm that the person now lacks decision-making capacity. The Attorney must then notify the DSS of this. When the DSS accepts that notification – at that point – an Enduring Power of Attorney would come into force.
(NOTE: The role of the DSS as outlined above is not just yet in operation. However, it is about to come into effect very shortly and will be the protocol for making and activating an EPA long into the future.)