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Policy Bulletin 2020 / 3 (COVID-19 Telephone Mediation Scheme)

14 Apr 2020

The Legal Aid NSW Chief Executive Officer has approved a COVID-19 Telephone Mediation Scheme to be funded through Early Resolution Assistance (ERA).


Background

We are experiencing high demand for family law services from separated families in dispute due to circumstances arising from COVID-19. Some examples of the issues that are emerging include:

  • difficulties facilitating contact arrangements due to closure of schools, contact centres and unavailability of public locations
  • unavailability of supervisors due to closure of contact centres or transmission risk to relatives such as grandparents
  • inability to comply with orders due to COVID-19 Government restrictions regarding travel and gathering in public places
  • concern about risk of transmission of COVID-19 between households
  • limited capacity for parties to agree on alternative arrangements to court orders, where there is high conflict or minimal communication
  • reduced capacity of the court to deal with matters and increased pressure on families caused by such delays.

To meet the needs of the community we are establishing a COVID-19 Telephone Mediation Scheme through ERA.

Early Resolution Assistance (ERA) – a new service type

The Legal Aid NSW Board has approved ERA as a new service type. An ERA service is:

  • legal representation provided to a person participating in an established, independent dispute resolution process
  • available for disputes which can be resolved quickly and cost-effectively by use of the dispute resolution process on its own, and
  • available to applicants who satisfy the eligibility criteria.

Applications for funding for the COVID-19 Telephone Mediation Scheme can be made on Grants Online using the ERA template. ERA will have a simplified means and merit test with a streamlined application and administration process.

Funding for the COVID-19 Telephone Mediation Scheme is available to applicants who satisfy the eligibility criteria, including means and merit tests.

Where are the changes?

The changes are set out in Policy Online: Early Resolution Assistance. There is information on the site about the eligibility criteria and information for lawyers about the Scheme and how the mediation process will work.

Commencement date

The COVID-19 Telephone Mediation Scheme commences on the 14 April 2020.

Contact for further information

Please contact Aideen McGarrigle, Manager Client Eligibility Unit for any questions about ERA Aideen.mcgarrigle@legalaid.nsw.gov.au or 9219 5701 and Justine Field, Family Dispute Resolution Service, for information about the COVID-19 Telephone Mediation Scheme Justine.field@legalaid.nsw.gov.au or 9219 5842.