The Public Trustee’s purpose is to provide financial and administrative services to eligible South Australians, to help those that cannot manage their own affairs and those who have trusted the organisation to assist them.

The Public Trustee Strategic Plan for 2020-2023 outlines that the core objectives of the organisation are to provide a positive customer experience, improve the way services are delivered, ensure appropriate governance and financial sustainability and support the people delivering that service. The continued focus has and will be on cultural change, wellbeing, workforce planning, training, recognition and improving the customer experience. We are committed to making a difference so South Australia thrives.

The Public Advocate and the Public Trustee have a significant number of shared customers. They are people under both guardianship and administration orders made by the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal and are some of the most vulnerable people in the South Australian community. During 2020-21, the Office of the Public Advocate and the Public Trustee strengthened processes for information sharing to deliver more coordinated services and to increase safeguarding of their shared customers.

The Office of the Public Advocate and the Public Trustee implemented regular meetings between staff at the Executive and Senior Management levels to discuss both strategic and client matters respectively. In addition, a working group was established with representation from staff at all levels across both organisations, to improve service delivery to shared customers.

The Office of the Public Advocate and the Public Trustee have jointly engaged with important stakeholders, particularly the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission, which regulates the delivery of NDIS services to people with disabilities, and the National Disability Insurance Agency. This has included a pilot project to streamline both organisations’ contact with the National Disability Insurance Agency.

Notwithstanding the COVID-19 pandemic the Public Trustee has continued to provide its full range of services to customers.

A range of changes have been implemented to maintain effective service delivery during the period. The changes have included:

  • Working from home for staff
  • Electronic certification of invoices
  • Improved scheduling of recurring payments to better support customers
  • Greater use of electronic workflows
  • Implementing an improved caseload model including a focussed transaction based customer service approach for key risk areas

The Public Trustee received funding of $3 million in the November 2020 State Budget to replace the aged and unsupported PeopleSoft Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. Following the announcement a targeted procurement occurred in December 2020 utilising the South Australian Government’s eProjects Procurement Panel.

The preferred supplier commenced in May 2021 and the intention is to complete the project by May 2022. The system will enable modernised business practices and should enable an improvement to customer service.

The Public Trustee Customer Satisfaction Survey for 2020-21 has confirmed an improved level of satisfaction compared to the prior year in every area of operations. This is a very pleasing result, especially given the COVID-19 challenges during the year.

The IWorkforSA 2021 Your Voice Survey (Your Voice) results for the Public Trustee reflect the significant positive efforts to improve organisational outcomes and culture.

The survey was completed in April 2021 and had a 70% response rate in the Public Trustee, an increase from the agency’s 2018 survey response rate of 41%. Results in all topic areas improved by in excess of 10 percentage points when compared to the 2018 results.

The operations of the Public Trustee have been improved in 2020-21 by:

  • Using the telephone recording system for coaching and training
  • Improving the service delivery model within Personal Estates to provide more efficient services to customers
  • Improving the Identifying and Reporting Critical Incidents Policy
  • Collaboration with OPA to establish mechanisms to enhance information sharing to deliver a more coordinated service
  • Working with the NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Commission to share training and client information
  • Working with the Fines Enforcement Recovery Unit (FERU) to proactively resolve debts for mutual customers who are vulnerable or in financial hardship
  • Improving staff and manager training as well as induction processes
  • Holding the third annual staff recognition event in November
  • Creating a People and Culture Plan to ensure the development of a high performing workforce that is adaptable to change
  • Strengthening of the Public Trustee’s ICT infrastructure and greater collaboration with the Attorney-General’s Department for ICT service delivery
  • Improving the funds administration system through the implementation of a new taxation module
  • Preparing a business case for the future replacement of the PeopleSoft Financial system
  • Developing a new website for launch early in 2021-22 that will improve community useability.

The Public Trustee’s profit for 2020-21 was $7.6 million; $2 million above budget. The improved profit is mainly due to favourable investment revenue as a result of strong financial market returns.

The 2020-21 financial year was an extremely positive period for financial markets, although interest rates remain low for cash and fixed interest investments.

Financial markets bounced back strongly this financial year. Global shares and property were the best performing asset classes, benefiting from low interest rates and government stimulus measures. The roll out of vaccines for COVID-19 and the gradual reopening of economies led to a rebound in economic growth. The Public Trustee’s investment returns ranged from 0.14% for Cash to 27.56% for Equities, net of fees. Ten year returns ranged from 2.37% p.a. for Cash to 10.56% p.a. for Equities, net of fees.

Nicolle Rantanen
Public Trustee