Appointees, agents and alternative payees
These are people acting on behalf of others in relation to Social Security benefits.
Who is an appointee?
If a customer cannot act for themselves because of a mental or physical health condition we can appoint another person to act on the customer’s behalf solely in relation to their Social Security benefits. Such a person is called an “appointee”.
Anyone aged 18 or over can apply to Social Security to be an appointee. An organisation can also be an appointee.
Most appointees are another family member or other relative of the customer. However, appointees do not have to be related to the customer – they could be a friend of the customer or a professional person, such as a lawyer or accountant.
If a customer has created a power of attorney and later cannot act for themselves, the attorney cannot act on the customer’s behalf in relation to their benefits until they become an “appointee”.
A person cannot be an appointee for a customer if a receiver has already been appointed by the High Court for the customer. Instead the receiver is responsible for acting on behalf of the customer in relation to their benefits and will receive payment of the customer’s benefits.
An appointee may resign from their appointment and we may revoke a person’s appointment at any time.
You can apply to be an appointee using Form BP17.
An appointee is legally responsible for acting in relation to all of the customer’s social security benefit affairs. They must –
- sign the benefit claim form;
- tell Social Security about any changes affecting how much benefit the customer gets;
- spend the benefit in the customer’s best interests; and
- tell Social Security if they stop being the customer’s appointee (e.g., the customer can now act for themselves).
All Social Security benefits are paid to a customer’s appointee on the customer’s behalf. If benefit is overpaid, the appointee could be held responsible for the overpayment.
It is important for the appointee not to mix their own money with the customer’s money. So we recommend that appointees set up a new bank account for themselves into which the customer’s benefit is paid and used to pay for the customer’s expenditure – and not for any other purpose.
If benefit is paid into a different type of account – or a new bank account is not set up – the appointee should keep a journal of the income and expenditure on behalf of the customer. This is especially important if the appointee does not live with the customer.
When a person is appointed as an appointee we will write to them explaining what their responsibilities are and what to do following certain changes in the customer’s circumstances.
Every so often we will review a sample of the people we have appointed to act on behalf of customers, to ensure that they are fulfilling their obligations to always act in the best interests of the customer.
If you are temporarily unable to collect your Social Security benefits (for instance, because you are not well enough to leave your house) we can pay your benefit to another person (called an “agent”) on your behalf. When you have an agent, you still remain responsible for advising us of any changes to your circumstances.
You can apply for your benefit to be paid to your agent using Form BP19.
If your benefit is paid to you by MiCard you can apply for it to be paid to your agent using Form BP18.
If you want to set someone up to collect your benefits on your behalf from time to time, but you still want to reserve the right to collect them yourself – for example, if you are a couple and you want either of you to be able to collect both your pensions – you can apply to have an “alternative payee” using Form BP16.
If you have an alternative payee, you remain responsible for advising us of any changes to your circumstances.