Formed with the sole purpose of advocacy towards the human rights of their clients, the Office of the Public Guardian or OPG is a self-governing statutory office entity. Their exclusive clients are adults with impaired decision-making abilities and younger people who are kept under child protection systems or visitable sites like mental health facilities, youth detention centers, or mental health facilities.
The OPG acts as a substitute decision-maker for their clients, advocating for their human rights towards accommodation, health care, legal matters excluding property or finance, and personal issues. For a better understanding of how and when to reach out to the OPG as a client or concerned, you can reach out to lawyers Gold Coast anytime for advice.
The Office of the Public Guardian has been given discrete powers and obligations through the legislative functions laid out in the Public Guardian Act 2014 and the Guardianship and Administration Act 2000.
Details About The Office Of The Public Guardian
Protection Support For Children And Young People
Human rights protection for children and young people in foster care, kinship care, and residential care comes under the special responsibility of the OPG, through the child advocacy function. This function helps to ensure the due consideration of client views and wishes when decisions affecting them are made, by lending them an independent voice through the OPG. Children under child protection law orders are also entitled to child advocacy, irrespective of being under parental care or not.
Representatives from the OPG pay regular visits to foster homes, residential care facilities, detention or correctional centers, and mental health facilities to engage in discussions with the children and young people there. The OPG ensures that all such clients attend there for the safekeeping of their respective human rights and interests.
Protection Support For Adults With Impaired Decision-Making Abilities
The Public Guardian Act 2014 has equipped the OPG with special powers for investigating claims of abuse, neglect, or exploitation in the form met to adults who are impaired when it comes to decision-making capabilities. Designated OPG adult community visitors meet vulnerable adults housed in visitable sites to gather information and evidence against any allegations raised for necessary protective actions.
The visitable sites we talk about here refer to community care centers, forensic disability services, mental health services, level 3 accredited residential services, and disability homes sponsored by the Department of Communities, Disability Services, and Seniors, or the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
The adult community visitors are authorized by law to lodge complaints about or on behalf of their clients if they find suitable evidence of any vulnerabilities met to their clients. With their power, they can approach external agencies like the Department of Communities, Disability Services and Seniors, or the Residential Services Unit for their complaints if deemed necessary.
How Is It Different From The Public Trustee Or A Litigation Guardian?
The Public Trustee is also a statutory body, appointed by the QCAT to protect legal rights towards their property and finances, for their clients who are impaired for decision making. The Public Trustee particularly is entrusted to take care of matters pertaining to budgets, pension and other benefit entitlements, bills, and expenditure approvals for such adults. However, unlike the OPG, they cannot take up decisions with regards to clients’ accommodation or health care, but only can manage their finances.
Appointment of the Public Trustee as an individual’s attorney is in the provision too, for decision-making on financial matters on their behalf. Involvement of the Public Trustee comes to the fore only when you do not have any trusted family or friend, as a mentally incapable adult. The Public Trustee does provide additional services like will-making, deceased estate administration, and alternate financial services to their impaired adult clients.
Managing investments and trusts for their minor beneficiaries who are either mentally or physically incapable is also the responsibility of the Public Trustee. Run by self-finance, the Public Trustee offers financial support services for their clients for reasonable charges, except for their free will services.
However, a Litigation Guardian is appointed under court rules for a minor or an adult with impaired decision-making capacity, to represent and act for that individual in legal proceedings. A Litigation Guardian is appointed by consent or by the court exercising its power when needed, as they are liable for costs of retaining a solicitor for their client.
They are additionally entitled to an indemnity for proper utilization of expenses towards their client’s holdings. The appointed Litigation Guardian essentially needs to familiarise themselves with their client’s circumstances and concerns to advocate for their best interest in court.
Unlike the OPG, both the Public Trustee and Litigation Guardian act as substitute administrators for their impaired clients rather than personal guardians. They have the power by law to conduct legal proceedings on their client’s behalf in matters of financial or property interests and family lawsuits.
In situations when a mentally incapable adult is found involved in lawsuits, without enough capacity to instruct a lawyer or take decisions as potential settlements, the OPG might have to act as the Litigation Guardian upon consent. The OPG may also act as an advocate for their impaired client in family law proceedings, upholding their wishes to the court and protecting their legal rights.
To summarise, the OPG is the last resort for mentally incapable adults and young people to advocate for their basic human rights, by understanding their lives and views, and working towards their protection from any neglect or discrimination.
The OPG is not bound to act as the Litigation Guardian for their client, despite the availability of such provision under the law if that means better protection of interest for an impaired individual.
The Public Trustee is specifically concerned with the protection of finances as an administrator, for an adult who is otherwise not in the capacity or position to make correct decisions mentally. An appointed Litigation Guardian has the knowledge and authority to argue or maintain legal proceedings on their client’s behalf or support their solicitor, acting as their client themselves.