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Users shun flagship digital service

'Service so good' NO ONE USES IT. Money well spent, eh?

Just a tiny proportion of people are completing the online application for a lasting power of attorney - one of the government's flagship digital services.

An LPA is a legal document that allows often vulnerable individuals to appoint someone to make decisions on their behalf. Around 300,000 such applications are made each year.

But only 18 per cent of applicants used the online LPA service last month. And over a nine-week period, just 27 per cent of users opting to use the online process completed their applications.

Under the original proposals for the service, the Office of the Public Guardian, the agency responsible for handling LPAs, had intended to create a "fully digital process" for making and registering an LPA, removing the need for paper forms.

However, the full digitalisation plans have since been withdrawn following concerns raised by a number of bodies that it would put vulnerable people at risk.

In November 2013 the Law Society, the representative body for solicitors in England and Wales, warned the complete digitalisation of the process would remove safeguards provided by physical witnessed signatures.

The online LPA is one of eight "examplar digital services" that have so far gone live, with the Government Digital Service having committed to completing 20 examplar services by March 2015 – down from the original 25.

Some of the other live "examplar" services are also experiencing a low user uptake. For example, the online version of the Civil Claims service, which handles 35,000 property possession claims, has so far achieved a 17 per cent user take-up. Completion rates for the service are 38 per cent.

This does not bode well for GDS' stated aim to "create digital services so good that people will choose to use them."

A Ministry of Justice mouthpiece said: “Making a Lasting Power of Attorney can be a difficult time for everyone involved. That’s why we have made the process easier and more convenient by launching the digital service.

“Almost 90 per cent of users said they were happy with the new service", claimed the mouthpiece, "and one in five people who apply for an LPA now do so online. Currently over 75 per cent of LPAs are processed through other organisations, such as solicitors and will writers." ®

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