State Trustees looks after the financial affairs of around 10,000 Victorians who cannot manage their own money because of disability or mental illness. It generally collects their income, pays their bills, takes care of their property, manages any legal issues and invests their savings
In recent years, a growing number of these people, or their family members or advocates, have complained to the Victorian Ombudsman. They often told common stories – unpaid bills, trouble getting money for everyday expenses and poor communication. Some tried to resolve their concerns with State Trustees but said it failed to respond or failed to fix the problems.
The Ombudsman was concerned about these complaints for several reasons:
- State Trustees’ clients are vulnerable, not just because of their disability or illness, but because State Trustees controls their money and property.
- The Ombudsman and the Victorian Auditor-General reported concerns about State Trustees in 2003 and 2012 respectively. The complaints suggested problems were persisting.
- The Victorian Parliament has been revising laws to strengthen the rights of people with a disability who need help with their financial affairs, consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The complaints raised questions about State Trustees’ readiness for this new approach.
On 5 July 2018, the Ombudsman notified the Chair of State Trustees’ board and its minister, the Treasurer, that she intended to investigate whether State Trustees acts in its clients’ best interests in its role as a financial administrator.