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Annual Report 2013 - 2014

Highlights at a glance

What we did over the past year

Despite budget challenges, Legal Aid NSW has significantly increased its services, particularly early intervention services.

Between 2009–2010 and 2013–2014, there has been an 80.6% increase in early intervention services*, well in excess of the 30% Commonwealth performance benchmark. By investing resources into early resolution, the costs of more resource intensive court or tribunal proceedings were avoided.

"Our largest service increase was in minor assistance services—16.5% higher than last year"

We provided 1,003,224 client services – a 3.1% increase on last year. Our client services include legal representation, duty services, legal advice, minor assistance and information services. Of these, the largest increase from last year was in minor assistance services at 16.5% followed by advice services at 6.6%.

Our work fell into four overlapping areas: early intervention and dispute resolution, restorative and diversionary programs, clients with complex needs, and partnerships and collaboration.

We are changing the way we provide services to our clients. There was a greater emphasis on taking services into the community through our mobile lawyer network. We provided 15,558 outreach advice services in 194 locations across New South Wales compared with 13,000 in 164 locations last year.

Our biggest challenge remains the shrinking legal aid budget, whilst demand continues to be overwhelming. We put a number of measures in place to meet savings targets, but made every effort to ensure services to disadvantaged people were not reduced.

This year, we have needed to make choices to protect the most vulnerable people and to make sure our services are strategic and targeted.

Programs were put in place to actively assist clients to break out of the cycle of disadvantage, including a program that addresses the issue of escalating debt as a result of fines. Based on the Legal Australia-Wide Survey that found 9% of people experienced 65% of legal problems, we established a program to help young people with multiple and complex needs.

The objectives from the Legal Aid NSW Plan 2013–2014 were achieved with most actions completed. We also developed a new plan for 2014–2015.

*Excluding State criminal law services, which are not early intervention in nature.

Financial management

Our net financial result was a surplus of $3.5 million, which is a $3.9 million improvement on the budgeted deficit.

Financial Summary

2012-13* ($M) 2013-14 ($M) Change (%)
Operating Revenue 246.2 247.7 0.6
Operating Expenses 239.6 243.9 1.8
Total Assets 101.9 106.3 4.3
Total Liabilities 76.0 74.3 (2.2)
Surplus / (Deficit) 6.2 3.5 (43.6)
Net Equity 25.9 32.0 23.6

*Due to changes to accounting standard AASB 119 the results for 2012–2013 were required to be restated. Figures in the summary table differ from results in printed 2012–2013 statements.

The key achievements of Legal Aid NSW over the last financial year are aligned with the four objectives of the Legal Aid NSW Plan 2013–2014.

"Our total service count exceeded 1,000,000 for the first time."

OBJECTIVE: To promote access to justice

  • Strengthening Legal Aid NSW Aboriginal services – mid-way through a Reconciliation Action Plan, new programs like Money Counts increased our outreach to Aboriginal communities.
  • Informing young people about the risks of cyberbullying – we produced a DVD for use in schools.
  • Early intervention keeps matters out of court – family law litigation has reduced by 13.5% since the Family Law Early Intervention Unit was introduced in 2011.

OBJECTIVE: To pursue excellence in legal services

  • New legal services at tribunals – people at disadvantage, including people with disability, and people who do not speak English were helped with their most basic legal needs.
  • Leading the way with training on the new Bail Act 2013 – our training ensured that criminal defence lawyers across New South Wales understand the new laws.
  • Appeals on behalf of prisoners – 68 appeals for prisoners were lodged arising from the Muldrock review.

OBJECTIVE: To support our people and improve our systems

  • Supporting our managers – we introduced a program to support managers to lead a respectful team.
  • Professional development for Aboriginal staff – we launched a new career development strategy, introduced a Reconciliation Champions Network and an inaugural Chairperson’s Scholarship.

OBJECTIVE: To build strong partnerships

  • Responding to interstate disasters – we developed a disaster recovery response in consultation with the Ministry of Police and Emergency Services and the legal assistance sector.
  • Filling a gap in legal service delivery for young people – we worked with Justice Cluster agencies in developing a service model for young people with complex needs.
  • A central role in Government domestic violence reforms – Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services were selected to take a lead in the Government’s reform program.

 Pie chart depicting the breakdown of Legal Aid client services supplied