Dumbo Feather
MEDIA, JOBS & RESOURCES for the COMMON GOOD
News  |  Social AffairsDisability

‘Overwhelming sense of powerlessness’ strikes Victoria’s most vulnerable


Friday, 28th June 2019 at 5:16 pm
Luke Michael
Vulnerable people have had their possessions sent to the tip, lost thousands of dollars in welfare entitlements and unwittingly paid other people’s fines because of “systemic” failures within State Trustees, the Victorian ombudsman has found.


Friday, 28th June 2019
at 5:16 pm
Luke Michael


0 Comments


FREE SOCIAL
SECTOR NEWS

 Print
‘Overwhelming sense of powerlessness’ strikes Victoria’s most vulnerable
Friday, 28th June 2019 at 5:16 pm

Vulnerable people have had their possessions sent to the tip, lost thousands of dollars in welfare entitlements and unwittingly paid other people’s fines because of “systemic” failures within State Trustees, the Victorian ombudsman has found.

Ombudsman Deborah Glass said State Trustees – an agency managing the finances of those unable to look after their own affairs due to disability, illness or injury – had failed some of the most vulnerable people in Victoria.

In one case, a State Trustees contractor accidentally took the personal possessions of a woman in her 70s with bipolar disorder and dementia to the tip, because of miscommunication after she moved into an aged care facility.

The woman lost family photographs, her son’s passport, her parents’ birth and death certificates, telephone and address books and other things she said were “very precious to her”.

“I have never been so upset or angry. I feel very powerless,” she wrote. 

The ombudsman’s investigation into the state-owned company reviewed the cases of 30 State Trustees’ clients in depth, and found 23 contained evidence of poor financial management.

Glass said at the heart of these issues was “an overwhelming sense of powerlessness”.

“The indignity of having to request money for a haircut to supplement a meagre allowance. The humiliation of going to the bank to collect your pension, only to find the money is no longer there,” Glass said.

“I acknowledge that many State Trustees staff are trying to do the right thing in what can be very challenging circumstances, and that the ombudsman rarely sees the instances when clients are satisfied. 

“But the evidence of dissatisfaction, directly impacting on State Trustees clients’ quality of life, is too substantial to be treated as other than systemic.”

Other cases of State Trustees financial mismanagement included a man who lost $10,888 in pension entitlements and a woman who lost $3,965 of Newstart payments.

State Trustees also paid $2,058 of an elderly client’s funds for traffic fines, despite being warned someone else was driving their car.

Glass said as a state-owned company, State Trustees operated in a commercial environment where there was pressure to reduce costs.

“While we found no evidence of individual decisions being made for commercial reasons, there is evidence of commercial pressures limiting its service as a whole,” she said.

The ombudsman made 14 recommendations in her report, including a review of State Trustees’ governance and status as a state-owned company and a review of state government funding for the company.

The report also called for measures to increase State Trustees’ engagement with people with disability, carers and advocacy organisations.

State Trustees and most government departments have already accepted all the recommendations in full or in principle.

In a statement on their website, State Trustees apologised to its clients for the failings identified in the report

“The investigation provided us with a chance to identify how we can do better,” the statement said.

“While we have already introduced several changes, there is much more that needs to be done. We acknowledge the strong reliance placed on us when we administer a person’s affairs.

“We are committed to meeting the challenge of fulfilling the Victorian community’s expectations of us in carrying out this important role.”


Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.


Got a story to share?

Got a news tip or article idea for Pro Bono News? Or perhaps you would like to write an article and join a growing community of sector leaders sharing their thoughts and analysis with Pro Bono News readers?

Get in touch at news@probonoaustralia.com.au

Get more stories like this

FREE SOCIAL
SECTOR NEWS

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

Fundraising From Vulnerable People

Wendy Williams

Tuesday, 11th October 2016 at 8:20 am

Culture of Fear Revealed – Disability Abuse Report

Lina Caneva

Wednesday, 9th December 2015 at 3:53 pm

Health Workers Conduct Register of Homeless

Staff Reporter

Wednesday, 31st July 2013 at 4:28 pm

State Trustees Grants for Victorian NFPs

Staff Reporter

Friday, 28th January 2011 at 3:55 pm

POPULAR

Disability royal commission faces boycott threat

Luke Michael

Monday, 16th September 2019 at 4:37 pm

Eight things you need to know about the future of legacy giving

Wendy Williams

Thursday, 12th September 2019 at 8:27 am

Five ways Australian charities are embracing tech to fundraise

Maggie Coggan

Tuesday, 17th September 2019 at 8:41 am

Dumbo Feather
pba inverse logo
Subscribe Twitter Facebook
dumbofeather

Giveaway time! Simply enter your email for your chance to win a Limited Edition Gift Bundle from our friends at Dumbo Feather.

 Count me in 

You have Successfully Subscribed!