Public Trustee staff problems

THE financial affairs of Northern Tasmanian clients of the Public Trustee are being handled in Hobart due to staffing problems at the Launceston office.

The state-owned business is tasked with managing the financial affairs, including wills, trusts and estates, for people deemed unable to do so for themselves.

Retiring executive director Peter Maloney admitted before government business scrutiny hearings yesterday that there had been a high turnover of staff at the Launceston office, contributing to complaints from clients.

He said the number of files handled in Launceston had been cut from 500 to about 300 in the past two years, despite an increase in demand for its services overall.

"Anything that looks slightly complex we bring it down to Hobart," he said.

The Launceston manager's position is vacant and will be readvertised again early next year after earlier advertisements failed to attract any candidates who were deemed suitable.

Legislative Councillors on yesterday's parliamentary committee also grilled the Public Trustee management about fees and practices for dealing with clients with challenging behaviour.

Apsley MLC Tania Rattray said a client had complained about being seen in the foyer with a security guard present.

"There has to be a better way," Ms Rattray said.

Mr Maloney said many clients did not voluntarily hand over their financial affairs and could become aggressive.

"It's the people who just rock up and who have a propensity for violence towards staff. There's just no other way."

Demand for the Public Trustee's services is predicted to continue to rise, with the number of clients increasing since 2003 from 268 to 693 by June 30 this year.

Mr Maloney said a program to help people regain control of their finances in a bid to reduce the Public Trustee's workload had achieved initial success.

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