SINGAPORE - There was a large jump last year in the number of people appointing guardians to make decisions on their behalf if they should lose mental capacity, after changes were made to make this process easier.
Last year, 8,360 applications for the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) were accepted, an increase of almost 160 per cent from 2014. The LPA is a legal document that allows a person to appoint an individual to make key decisions for him, should he become unable to do so. Anyone who is at least 21 can sign one.
Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin revealed these figures in Parliament on Thursday, after Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC) asked for an update on the take-up rate of the LPA.
The increase in sign-ups follows the Government's efforts in late 2014 to make it easier and more convenient to make an LPA. The forms were simplified, cut from 15 pages to eight pages, and less legal jargon was used.
The $50 application fee was also waived for Singaporeans for the basic LPA form. In addition, people could submit LPA applications via business reply service envelopes for free, instead of visiting the Office of the Public Guardian to submit the forms.
Since the LPA scheme started in 2010, more than 20,000 LPAs have been accepted - a figure that Mr Seah said was "too small", given the much larger number of people eligible to sign up for an LPA.
Mr Tan agreed with Mr Seah, but said: "It's a balance between making (the application process) easy, and safeguarding the interests of the individuals."
Mr Tan said he would also consider other MPs' suggestions on how to better raise awareness of the LPA scheme.
Dr Fatimah Lateef (Marine Parade GRC) and Dr Lim Wee Kiak (Sembawang GRC) suggested doing so through approaches used for other schemes for the elderly - such as the MediShield Life and Pioneer Generation Package. About seven in 10 LPA applications are made by people aged 56 and above.
One-to-one consultations for MediShield Life, to help people understand the new compulsory health insurance scheme, are conducted at several community clubs. There are also Pioneer Generation Ambassadors who visit seniors at home to explain the healthcare benefits they receive from the Government.