In some cases, at the request of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), OPA staff will conduct an independent investigation in order to assist VCAT in determining applications in regards to:
- the appointment of a guardian and/or administrator
- orders about enduring powers of attorney, including the revocation and/or suspension of enduring powers of attorney (financial and/or personal and medical treatment)
- applications for consent to undertake special procedures.
This is done in accordance with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Act 1998.
OPA's role in investigations is to gather relevant information and write a report. The VCAT member ultimately makes any determination.
OPA may be asked to explore less restrictive options to the appointment of a guardian or administrator, the use of powers of attorney or applications for consent to special procedures.
OPA also conducts much briefer investigations into urgent matters (‘temporary investigations’) to establish whether there is a need for an urgent hearing.
In many cases, an OPA investigation results in the VCAT application being withdrawn or dismissed.
In 2018, 28 per cent of investigations resulted in the VCAT application being withdrawn or dismissed. The Public Advocate was only appointed in 37 per cent of matters.
This suggests that investigation of a matter, by clarifying issues and providing additional information, does indeed divert matters which otherwise may have proceeded to guardianship.