Trustee and Guardian to cut costs by 20%

THE NSW Trustee and Guardian is closing 11 of its offices across NSW as part of an efficiency drive to cut costs by 20%.

The NSW Trustee and Guardian provides executor and trustee services as well as financial management services for people who no longer have capacity to manage their financial affairs. 

They also assist people with making wills and powers of attorney.

Most of their clients are vulnerable people and many have a cognitive impairment or are institutionalised in a nursing home.

The Trustee and Guardian, however, has been operating at a loss for a number of years.

In response, the NSW Government ordered the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) to review the Trustee and Guardian’s operations, including its fees.

IPART recommended that some fees be increased, while others be lowered or waived to reflect the actual cost of the service provided and ensure that low-income clients are protected from unaffordable fees.

The NSW Government has accepted these proposals.

19 offices will reduce to nine and it is expected that between 150 and 200 staff will lose their jobs following the consolidation of the Trustee and Guardian offices.

The Trustee and Guardian will change its operations so that clients will have five or six Client Service Officers assigned to them, rather than only one.

This will help avoid delays in services for clients when staff go on leave. However, it is unclear how this model will work in practice given the mooted staff cuts.

The Attorney General, Gabrielle Upton, stated that people would have better access to the Trustee and Guardian through improved online and over the phone services.

While improved online services are welcome, this form of contact is far from ideal for many clients, particularly older people and people with a cognitive impairment.

The branch closures mean that most clients will be within a two-hour drive of a branch.

A new branch will be opened in Dubbo, but branches in Bathurst, Broken Hill, Penrith and Gosford will be closed.

Travelling for two hours (and in some cases, more) will obviously be a huge problem for clients who need to access face to face services. 

The Trustee and Guardian will continue to offer outreach services to people in remote areas but this usually takes the form of information sessions and seminars or appointments which people can book in advance rather than offering ongoing support and contact with people under financial management.

People will be able to access information about Trustee and Guardian services through the 42 Service NSW branches, but these services will be limited to information and booking appointments with Trustee and Guardian branches.

The changes will begin to be implemented throughout 2016.