A day in the life of the Public Guardian
It’s my week to be the Executive on call after hours, and I’m woken by a call from one of our delegate guardians who has received a call to our healthcare line, which we operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
It’s a doctor from a hospital up north who is seeking consent to withhold CPR for an adult who is sadly dying, and unlikely to survive CPR. The adult is unconscious, has no known family or friends and has previously verbalised that they would not like life support to continue if they were in a state like this.
Unfortunately I’ve already had four shots of coffee. I quickly review any urgent matters relating to clients that mean I might need to rearrange my day.
First up is a meeting with my colleagues at the Department of Corrections about how we can jointly facilitate Guardianship clients obtaining immediate access to National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) supports on their release from correctional facilities.
It’s a situation we’re taking very seriously at OPG, as it is proving very difficult for clients in correctional facilities to meet with NDIS case planners, meaning these clients are not getting access to the scheme. In some cases this can impact on their release, as there are no disability supports for them in place outside of the correctional facility.
It’s a complex problem, but our conversation was productive, and I’m hopeful that if we continue to work together we can find a solution.
Time to head to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) to attend a hearing for a client. Mr M is a 31 year old gentleman supported one on one by a service provider 24/7 in the community.
I am appointed as guardian to seek help for and make representations on behalf of Mr M in relation to restrictive practices. Currently he is subject to 24/7 containment, which means he cannot leave his home unless supported for community access by his service provider.
At this hearing I raise concerns there was limited evidence to support the need for containment and that the excessive use of containment impacted on Mr M’s quality of life and skills development and is a breach of his human rights.
Thankfully the outcome of this hearing was that QCAT only approved containment for times when he was not able to leave his house when he was escalated and posed a risk to himself or others.
I review an investigations file to decide whether I need to exercise my protective powers to step in and suspend an enduring power of attorney. It’s a case that was first brought to our attention by a nursing home when a resident’s fees had fallen substantially into arrears.
The investigations officer working on this particular case had been able to liaise with the lady’s bank to discover that the substantial amount of money that should have been in her account was no longer there.
The interim finding in the report finds that on the balance of probabilities, her son – who has enduring power of attorney – is responsible for the missing money. I set in motion the process to have his power of attorney suspended to protect her remaining funds while we continue to look into the matter. This means the Public Trustee will act as her administrator until the matter can be considered by QCAT.
Another meeting, this time with representatives from the Queensland Police Service. We have come together to discuss the ongoing situation of children and young people being held in watch houses due to over-crowding in youth detention centres.
This is a matter that is of real concern to me, as our Community Visitors aren’t able to visit all watch houses in Queensland, so we need to work with the police to determine what arrangements can be put in place to ensure we can oversee the rights of these young people.
It’s time for one of my favourite things to do – present a Public Guardian Excellence Award! These awards acknowledge those external service providers that go above and beyond to protect and advocate for the human rights of our clients.
For this particular award I head to a non-government Advocacy Service to recognise the work of a lawyer whose persistence and dedication played a huge role in the decision by the Mental Health Court to not consent to the continuation of ECT treatment for a client who had repeatedly and consistently stated they did not want this treatment. It was great to have the opportunity to talk to the lawyer in person, hear her story, and thank her for her exceptional work.
It’s been a hectic day, so what better way to wind down than with a workout? I’m a great believer in offering staff the opportunity to incorporate exercise into their workday, as physical wellbeing is a big contributor to improved mental wellbeing.
I always try and join in a lunchtime Pilates class when I can, but today it’s the after-hours stair running group. Not only is it a great way to blow off a bit of stress, but I love catching up with some of the staff in the office in a more informal setting, and hearing what they’ve been doing to help our clients.
Then it’s time to head home to spend some time with my family and sit down to a night of emails and meeting follow-up.
*All names have been changed to protect identities.