When can I report abuse to OPG?

We’re only able to investigate allegations of neglect, exploitation or abuse if:

  • the vulnerable adult is ‘domiciled’ in Queensland (this means they either live in Queensland or maintain a permanent address in Queensland), and
  • they DO NOT have the capacity to make their own decisions about a matter of concern.

We’ve put together some information to help you identify whether an adult may have impaired decision-making capacity. However, it is very important to understand you cannot assume an adult has impaired capacity for a decision just because you don’t like or you disagree with the adult’s own decision.

Often the complaints we receive are about someone appointed as an attorney (via an Enduring Power of Attorney document) who’s not acting in the interests of the person they are supposed to be supporting. However we’re also able to investigate abuse allegations where there is an informal care arrangement (such as when a friend or family member sometimes helps an adult with day to day tasks) or no care arrangement at all.

When we can’t investigate

Under legislation, we can’t investigate suspicions of abuse when an adult has decision-making capacity nor are we able to investigate organisations that provide paid services, such as residential care facilities or home help providers. However there are a number of organisations that may be able to offer support and advice in these scenarios.

Sometimes there is a more appropriate body to investigate your allegation. In many cases, we make referrals to other agencies, including the Queensland Police Service.

A simple way of working out who to approach about suspected abuse is to answer one of these two questions:

When the adult has an attorney acting for them under an Enduring Power of Attorney

  • Is the attorney using that power, or failing to use that power, in a way that is harming the adult either financially or personally?

When no one is formally helping an adult make decisions (such as under an Enduring Power of Attorney)

  • If a formal arrangement (such as appointing a guardian/administrator) was put in place to help with decision-making for the adult, would that protect the adult from harm or neglect, either from themselves or others?

If the answer to either question is NO, OPG is probably not the most-appropriate organisation to contact.

We generally do not conduct an investigation if a Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) process relating to the adult’s decision making arrangements is underway. If the outcome of the hearing doesn’t resolve the issues, we can then determine if an OPG investigation is appropriate.

Should I take any action before contacting OPG?

This depends on the circumstances but there may be some scenarios when talking to others may resolve the issue without formal action being needed. For example, if your concerns are about an attorney preventing family or friends from visiting an adult in residential care, firstly attempt to talk to the attorney to clarify if the adult can make these type of decisions for themselves, why the restrictions are necessary and how the matter can be resolved. You and the attorney can also consider mediation to resolve potential conflict about issues such as social contact restrictions or health and care arrangements.

If you are concerned about an attorney’s actions, consider talking or communicating with them. It may be a difficult conversation but the attorney may genuinely not understand their obligations as an attorney and any identified abuse could be unintentional or unknown. Our Responsibilities of an Attorney under an Enduring Power of Attorney factsheet is a useful resource in this situation.

In all matters, the primary focus for those involved must be the adult and their interests, not the personal interests of the people involved. If the matter cannot be resolved informally (where appropriate) and it is considered the attorney may be acting outside their powers leading to the adult experiencing or at risk of harm, neglect or exploitation, contact us.