Ausnew Home Care | Family wins battle against Public Trustee to keep

Family wins battle against Public Trustee to keep brother's financial independence

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Sue Nunn feels like a weight has lifted off her shoulders after winning a lengthy legal battle against the Public Trustee of Queensland to ensure her brother has financial independence.

The trustee challenged her late father's will in 2018 on behalf of his two sons, Terry and John, who have disabilities.

Ms Nunn said it forced the family into a protracted legal battle.

She said she was shocked to learn the trustee was charging her brother John — a 54-year-old who has Down syndrome — 40 per cent of his disability pension to look after his finances.

"It equated to just over $8,000 a year, so that's a substantial hit to his income," Ms Nunn said.

A woman sitting at a table with paper in front of her. Ausnew Home Care, NDIS registered provider, My Aged Care
Sue Nunn spent two years in a legal battle with the Public Trustee over her family's finances.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Jess Lamb)

Ms Nunn's parents had their original wills written by the trustee.

She said the family had a "reasonably good" experience with the organisation when dealing with John's finances — until the death of her parents and the challenge to the will.

Ms Nunn said they were able to keep John in his long-term accommodation at Wurtulla thanks to his National Disability Insurance Scheme package.

"If he hadn't had that then his funds would have been decimated," she said.

QCAT rules in family's favour

The Nunns lodged an application last November for financial administration on behalf of John. 

The case was heard at the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal in July.

The tribunal ruled the Public Trustee be removed as Mr Nunn's administrator and Ms Nunn and her other brother appointed financial controllers. 

"It's a massive weight lifted off our shoulders," Ms Nunn said. 

"We know that he's going to have anything that he needs to support him and his quality of life for as long as he lives." 

A branch office with signage of the Queensland's Public Trustee in suburban Brisbane.
A branch office of the Public Trustee of Queensland in suburban Brisbane.(ABC News: Stephanie Zillman)

Ms Nunn has had half of the $80,000 in legal costs repaid by the trustee, but she wants the other 50 per cent paid back as well.

She also wants the organisation held to account after it "mishandled" her family's case.

"I was told that despite all of the things that went wrong that the only consequence for staff members was that they were counselled as to the expectations of their roles," she said.

Ms Nunn said it took her two to three hours a month to reconcile her brother's accounts.

"That 40 per cent was being used by them to pay a total of seven payees," she said.

"I just find that staggering."

Calls for an inquiry 

The Member for Maroochydore, Fiona Simpson, said the public trustee needed to be held to account.

"This is a horrific story," Ms Simpson said.

Headshot of a woman.
Fiona Simpson says there should be an inquiry into the Public Trustee.(ABC News: Matt Eaton)

"This is a loving, capable family, who are exactly what you want to work with — their own loved ones.

Ms Simpson is calling for an inquiry into the Public Trustee after a report released earlier this year found a range of practices that "fall short" of its fiduciary and legal duties.

"I think there is a need for an inquiry — not to waste money, but to fix the system — so people get fair outcomes," Ms Simpson said.

"There really is an urgency for the state and the Attorney-General to step in, bring back the transparency."

In a statement, Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman said the government had committed to establishing a Public Trustee Advisory and Monitoring Board, which would focus on improving its performance, transparency, and public accountability.

She said a bill to establish the board would be introduced to parliament "soon".

Reforms bring trustee 'into 21st century'

Geoff Rowe, chief executive of Aged and Disability Advocates (ADA) Australia, said the Public Trustee of Queensland was taking on some reforms to bring the organisation "into the 21st century".

"Some of their new initiatives, like their financial literacy training, are about trying to make some of the people that they currently support independent so that they can manage their own affairs going forward," he said.

Headshot of Geoff Rowe.
Geoff Rowe, CEO of Aged and Disability Advocates Australia.(ABC News: Dean Caton)

Mr Rowe said it was important for people able to manage their own affairs to be supported by the public trustee to do so.

"That they help to develop the skills they need to become financially literate and financially independent," he said.

"But we really need to ensure that toolkit, in its consideration of any application, really does fully explore what options are available for that person."


Source: ABC

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