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Annual Report 2011 - 2012

Community programs

Community Legal Centres Funding Program

Legal Aid NSW administers the State, Commonwealth and Public Purpose Fund (PPF) funding for 36 Community Legal Centres (CLCs) throughout NSW, including Community Legal Centres NSW (CLCNSW), the peak body representing CLCs in the State.

CLCs provide free legal services targeted to meet the needs of disadvantaged people. More detailed information about services and locations of individual centres is on the CLCNSW website.

CLCs are independent, non-profit organisations that are generally incorporated bodies managed by a board or management committee.

Fact file
People assisted through 36 centres 46,125
Referrals made to Legal Aid NSW 5,301
Referrals received from Legal Aid NSW 3,344
Advices to clients 54,069
New cases 8,140
Cases completed 8,655
Major cases completed (complex/lengthy matters) 1,166
Education programs delivered 989

Funding in 2011–2012

A total of $18,916,933 was paid to CLCs through the program comprising:

  • $8,303,898 in Commonwealth Government funding (44%);
  • $5,357,088 in State Government funding (28%); and
  • $5,255,947 in Public Purpose Funding (28%).

The Commonwealth funding above includes one off payments of $754,000 to 13 Community Legal Centres for service delivery in response to specific client needs. This was funded by the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department.

More details about funding can be found in Appendix 6.

Major achievements

Priority: Excellence in legal services

Reviews

In 2010–2011 Legal Aid NSW commissioned an independent review of the Aboriginal Legal Access Program (ALAP), auspiced by the Hawkesbury Nepean, Illawarra, Macarthur, Northern Rivers and Shoalcoast CLCs.

The review resulted in the program receiving three-year funding from the PPF for 2011–2014.

Three of the above-mentioned CLCs also received additional one-off Commonwealth funds (total value $150,000) to enhance and maintain their Aboriginal support work.

Legal Aid NSW commissioned a major review of the Children’s Court Assistance Scheme (CCAS) to evaluate its effectiveness. The review found that the Scheme met its objectives and that its coverage of seven of the ten highest volume courts was appropriate.

The review recommended that Legal Aid NSW seek additional funds for Aboriginal support work in Children’s Courts and develop funding options based on finalised criminal matter volumes at each court, and at priority courts, for any further expansion. Legal Aid NSW will include these options in its submission to the PPF for 2012–2013.

Legal Aid NSW worked with CCAS coordinators to review program guidelines and develop new ones. These will be incorporated in the Community Legal Service Program Service Agreements.

Priority: Linking services

Intellectual disability partnership

The Intellectual Disability Service Improvement Project is a partnership between Legal Aid NSW and the Intellectual Disability Rights Service (IDRS) aimed at improving legal outcomes for people with an intellectual disability facing criminal charges in New South Wales.

Under the project, IDRS has developed a guide to assist lawyers representing clients with intellectual disability, particularly in Local Courts. It has been rolled out through a training program across New South Wales and is available on the internet.

Partnership funding program

The Legal Aid NSW/Community Legal Centre Partnership Program funds innovative and responsive projects conducted in partnership between Legal Aid NSW and CLCs. Legal Aid NSW makes $100,000 available each financial year.

The successful projects in the 2011–2012 funding round were:

  • Hearing New Voices/Creating New Law — consultation with children and young people on the need for law reform regarding social media, submitted by the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre with the Children’s Legal Service of Legal Aid NSW ($33,400);
  • Have you been paid a fair day’s pay? — a guide for seeking payment for underpayment or non-payment of wages submitted by Far West CLC in partnership with the Legal Aid NSW Employment Law Service ($25,000);
  • The s501 Project — providing advice and representation to prisoners and former prisoners who have received notice of visa cancellation on character grounds, submitted by the Public Interest Law Clearing House (PILCH) with the Human Rights Unit of Legal Aid NSW ($30,000); and
  • The Unfair Dismissals Project— focuses on capacity building and provision of legal assistance for unfair dismissals, submitted by PILCH with Legal Aid NSW ($11,600). Three CLCs are also participating in the project.
Partnership on court support

Legal Aid NSW worked in partnership with the Community Restorative Centre’s volunteer Court Support Scheme (CSS), providing assistance with the CSS Volunteer Training Manual, and speakers for training workshops. We conducted an inhouse review of the Scheme in preparation for the 2012–2013 funding submission to the PPF.

The review found that the CSS is a very well received and efficient partner in delivery of client information and support services in courts. It also found that there is scope to expand CSS services to additional courts and for more intensive court support for people with special needs (such as people with disability, or those experiencing high levels of trauma), if additional funding were made available.

Service enhancement

As part of our annual feedback on their performance, we surveyed stakeholders of 17 centres funded under the Commonwealth Community Legal Services Program (CLSP).

The survey sought input on the accessibility and responsiveness of service delivery, the appropriateness of referrals and the extent of cooperation with other service providers. Each centre received a summary of the results.

Overall, the process confirmed that CLCs offer a very effective service with respondents generally “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with each of the criteria. Any suggestions made by stakeholders on areas for systemic improvement were provided to individual centres. This process will continue across the program in 2012-2013.

The National Association of CLCs and Legal Aid NSW agreed to pilot a single, streamlined process for centre accreditation and service standards audits under the CLSP Service Agreement. The two organisations jointly funded a regional accreditation coordinator to manage the pilot. This process will continue across the program in 2012–2013.

Planning ahead

Year ahead

Evaluate the CLC/Legal Aid NSW Partnership Funding Program, including all projects funded since its inception in 2010.

Implement the findings of the review of the Children’s Court Assistance Scheme.

Continue to implement the findings of the review of the Aboriginal Legal Assistance Program.

Key challenge

Ensuring the ongoing provision of Children’s Court assistance, and pursuing options for greater court support of Aboriginal young people and their families in the Children’s Court.

Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Program

Legal Aid NSW administers NSW Government funding for 28 Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services (WDVCASs). These assist women and children who have experienced or are experiencing domestic violence to obtain effective legal protection from Local Courts through applications for Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders. They also connect clients with other relevant services and, through partnerships, build local capacity to respond to domestic violence.

Fact file
Provided services at 108 Local Courts
Provided 76,665 services to 27,565 clients across NSW (a 3.2% increase on last year and an 86% increase in services since expansion)
11.6% of clients were Aboriginal women
18.6% of clients were from culturally and linguistically diverse (Culturally diverse) communities
Assisted clients to obtain 10,541 separate final orders

Increase in services

"There has been an 86 % increase in services since the program expanded in July 2009."

Funding in 2011–2012

In 2011-2012, $7,218,696 was paid in grants for this program. Funding goes to incorporated, not-for-profit non-government service providers through a triennial service agreement with Legal Aid NSW. Details appear in Appendix 5.

Major achievements

Priority: Access to justice

Last year, this program received the Premier’s Award for Leading Change for its expansion project. The program team was invited to present information about the expansion project at the Institute of Public Administration Australia NSW 2011 State Conference.

Priority: Excellence in legal services

A review of the program’s expansion from 65 to 108 Local Courts identified that Legal Aid NSW funds a ‘best practice model’ of service delivery and highlighted the increase in client numbers and program consolidation. Placing additional Aboriginal and culturally and linguistically diverse specialist workers in services from July 2009 has proved particularly effective. The program now funds 23 Aboriginal specialist worker positions and 13 culturally diverse specialist worker positions across 26 services.

In ensuring that our services are responsive to the needs of people who have experienced family and domestic violence, we provided training to help domestic violence workers respond appropriately to clients who are or have experienced domestic violence.

Training over the year for workers in the 28 Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services comprised three core training programs (44 attendees) and five seconded worker training sessions (72 attendees). Refresher core training, which was developed and trialled in 2011–2012, will be undertaken by all workers every three years.

Priority: Linking services

This program relies on collaborative working relationships with key partners in providing effective services to and gaining positive outcomes for clients. These partners are:

New South Wales Police Force, Local Courts, the legal profession and other non-government and government organisations providing services to victims of domestic violence.

A new Domestic and Family Violence Strategy for 2011–2013 commits Legal Aid NSW to a whole-of-organisation approach to responding more effectively to domestic violence. They include:

  • Staff and support services receive training in domestic and family violence related legal issues, including interview techniques and awareness training.
  • All services are coordinated to work together in partnership.
  • People in domestic violence situations receive better advocacy and legal assistance.
  • More education programs and information resources about domestic violence are developed.

Planning ahead

Year ahead

Monitor and evaluate the program’s effectiveness.

Implement the recommendations of the expansion review.

Implement the Domestic and Family Violence Strategy, with special focus on training.

Hold the first of three annual forums to foster partnerships that help achieve the best possible outcomes for victims of domestic violence.

Key challenge

Monitoring, training and mentoring the 28 services, taking into account their individual needs.