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Govt plan to merge Public Trustee, Public Advocate offices

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The agencies that provide financial management and wellbeing services to incapacitated South Australians would be merged under one roof, in reforms the State Government claims will reduce duplication.

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It will introduce legislation to combine the Office of the Public Advocate – which oversees the wellbeing of mentally incapacitated South Australians – and the office of the Public trustee, which helps those who can’t manage their own finances.

Attorney-General Vickie Chapman argues that the reform will reduce duplication for the agencies, which share about 700 clients.

The Public Trustee has about 4500 clients under financial administration. The Office of the Public Advocate has about 1000 clients. 

“By amalgamating the two services, we will eliminate any confusion and double-handling, delivering a more consistent, efficient service for all clients and customers that take a more holistic approach to meeting their needs,” said Chapman in a statement.

“For the individual and their loved ones, there is currently an unnecessary level of duplication as they need to deal with two individual agencies on matters that relate to the same person.

“This can create confusion and can result in people having to tell their story numerous times.”

She said new laws would have to be passed through parliament to enable the reform, and that it would be business as usual for clients of the offices until then.

“This will require legislative change, and we will be working to ensure our proposed legislative framework and any amalgamated structure delivers the best possible outcome for clients,” she said.

“Input from those who have had experience with both the Public Trustee and the Public Advocate will be essential as we progress these reforms, and I look forward to hearing their views on how they would expect the new body to operate.”

The Public Trustee has about 180 full-time equivalent employees while the Public Advocate employs about 25. 

A Government spokesperson said no jobs would be lost as a result of the merger – or so was the expectation – and that a bill is being drafted for parliament.

Earlier this year, the Government announced that the Public Trustee would scale down its preparation of wills service, limiting it to customers with concession cards – about half of its usual client base.

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