In April 2017 a bill was passed in the House of Commons that will allow families to look after their missing loved one’s finances and legal affairs. It had taken seven years of campaigning by families of missing people, the charity and by supportive parliamentarians to get to that point.
The new law was desperately needed as an estimated 2,500 families are currently struggling to manage their missing person’s affairs. For some this means they can’t do even the most basic of things, like ensure their loved one’s home and finances are maintained and their dependants cared for. Some may face further issues if a family member has joint assets (like a joint mortgage) with the missing person, or is financially dependent on them. In the worst cases, finances may be damaged beyond repair and homes repossessed.
When the bill was passed the Ministry of Justice said that it would take one year to get all the necessary work done before families could start making applications. That means the new law should have been implemented in April this year. This did not happen and families are still unable to do anything to manage their loved one’s affairs.
The government have now confirmed that the law will come into force in July 2019. A full 27 months after the bill was given Royal Assent. That means over two years of waiting for families continuing to struggle. Two years during which more people will have gone missing and more families will be forced into this situation.
We have written to the two Ministers responsible for the legislation. We have told them of the impact that these delays may have, and we have urged them not to delay the necessary work any further. The law must be enacted in July next year at the very latest.
Quote from Peter Lawrence: I welcome the certainty that the government have now provided but I am still disappointed that families will have to suffer for yet another nine months. That means another nine months of financial hardship and extreme worry at a time when people are at their lowest ebb emotionally.”