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Policy Bulletin No. 6/15 (Contributions Policy and Guidelines)

1 Jun 2015

The Legal Aid NSW Board has approved amendments to the Legal Aid NSW Contributions Policy and Guidelines.

Background

Legal Aid NSW has the power to determine and impose initial and final contributions under sections 36 and 46 of the Legal Aid Commission Act 1979 (NSW) (the Act).

Initial and final contributions are payments that go towards the costs of providing the legal service to the legally aided client.  It is important that we collect contributions from clients who can afford to pay. Contributions are an integral part of Legal Aid NSW’s overall revenue, and as such, ensure Legal Aid NSW can continue to provide legal representation to socially and economically disadvantaged people across New South Wales.

What are the changes?

The main objective of the policy changes is about ensuring the policy is applied consistently to all legally aided clients. It is also aimed at ensuring Legal Aid NSW is able to recover the costs of conducting matters in appropriate circumstances as this in turn ensures we can provide representation services to more socially and economically disadvantaged people across NSW.

The new policy and guidelines clarify the circumstances in which discretion can be exercised when considering whether to reduce or waive a contribution. Discretion may be exercised where Legal Aid NSW is satisfied there are exceptional circumstances. The new guidelines on exceptional circumstances are intended to ensure an initial contribution will only be reduced or waived where it is clear the legally aided person has no capacity to pay. Once Legal Aid NSW determines a legally aided person has capacity to pay the contribution and they do not pay it, then legal aid will be terminated.

The Contribution Guidelines are intended to flow from and complement the Contribution Policy making the policy easier to apply with the ultimate aim of improving the collection of contributions.

Legal Aid NSW has also increased the number of ways in which a legally aided person can pay their contribution and this includes paying by an instalment plan. The details of the payment methods will be provided to each client with the grant of aid letter and are also available on the Legal Aid NSW Website.

Where do I find the changes?

The changes are set out in Policy Online in:

Contributions Policy at chapter 11.

Contributions Guidelines at chapter 5.

Commencement date

The new Contributions Policy and Guideline apply to contribution determinations made on or after 1 June 2015.