PUBLIC guardianship refers to a government-employed individual being appointed by the Supreme Court or Guardianship Tribunal to make health and welfare decisions on behalf of someone deemed incapable of making those decisions on their own.
Public Guardians are unable to make financial decisions on behalf of the person, so often someone under public guardianship will also be appointed a Public Trustee to handle their financial affairs.
In theory the system works well because no single individual has complete control over the affairs of someone deemed unable to speak out for themselves, and each individual acts in the best interests of the person deemed incapable.
Yet concerns have arisen about cases of conflicts of interest and finances being considered separate from health and welfare.
CPSA received a call from a concerned neighbour about a woman with a disability who is being kept in a nursing home against her will.
In a nutshell, the disturbing tale is that the woman in her 60s is being kept in an aged care facility while wanting to go home and be cared for by her willing neighbour.
At the facility she often feels unsafe at night when the nurse on duty has been known to fall asleep.
She doesn’t have her laundry done and doesn’t have necessary health checks.
Her distress at being in the nursing home is compounded by the fact that the Public Trustee is looking at selling her house against her will to pay for this “care”.
She has also asserted that she has never met her Guardian who is responsible for her care.
To make matters worse, there are limited ways to revoke the decisions made on people’s behalf unless you have the money to pay for it.
The Aged-care Rights Service is unable to take cases to the Supreme Court but this is often where cases to overturn guardianship orders need to go.
Additionally it is often the case that people are deemed unable to speak on their own behalf and the appointed Guardian is the only one legally able to do so. It becomes very difficult when someone has a problem with the person appointed to advocate in their best interests.
We don’t want to discount all the good work done by Public Guardians and Trustees but CPSA is very concerned with the conflict of interest present within the system. For example, the Guardian and Trustee office provides free wills, but only if they are appointed executor.
Similarly the lack of communication between Guardians and clients as well as between Guardians and Trustees is most concerning.
The importance of planning for later life is definitely something to seriously think about.