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Annual Report 2013 - 2014

Our services: a snapshot

We provide a wide range of services to our clients

This page captures a snapshot of our client services and statistics for 2013–2014. Three-year comparison tables can be viewed in Appendix 7.

Details about our achievements in client service delivery are summarised in the Legal Aid NSW Plan and expanded upon in Section 1 Client services.

Information

Provided 654,958 information services, a 3.3% increase on last year.

Our information services are free and can be accessed by the general community. Our staff can help with initial inquiries about a legal problem and legal processes, and provide resources to help clients understand their situation and the availability of legal aid. Our staff help clients work out what to do next, and the best place to go if they need more help.

Information over the phone is available through LawAccess NSW, a free legal information, referral and limited advice service administered by the NSW Department of Justice, and partly funded by Legal Aid NSW.

Publications and community legal education

Distributed 712,395 publications (In addition, there were 341,783 pdf downloads and 604,793 views of html pages).

Provided 3,160 community legal education sessions, an increase of 25.6% on last year (see Community legal education).

We provide free publications and legal education kits to help people in New South Wales to understand their legal rights and responsibilities.

Our resources are available on our website under Factsheets and Resources and can be ordered on our website at Publications > Order a publication. We conduct legal education sessions at venues across the State. These can be tailored to suit the needs of particular groups.

Legal advice and minor assistance

Provided 140,729 advice and minor assistance services, an increase of 9.3% on last year.

Legal advice and minor assistance services are available at no cost and are not means tested.

Our lawyers help clients to identify their problem, inform them of their legal rights and obligations and help them to understand what course of action can be taken.

Lawyers may also draft letters or other documents for clients and make telephone calls on their behalf to help resolve their problem. We refer to this as minor assistance.

Duty lawyer services

Provided a total of 171,765 duty services (111,132 of these were provided inhouse and 60,633 were provided by private lawyers on behalf of Legal Aid NSW).

Legal Aid NSW provides lawyers in various courts and tribunals throughout New South Wales.

Duty lawyers provide advice and/or representation to disadvantaged people appearing before the Local and Children’s Courts on criminal charges. Some matters are able to be finalised on the first appearance. Otherwise the duty lawyer can seek an adjournment for further advice, to arrange a grant of aid or to allow time for further preparation.

A duty lawyer is provided to all persons in custody for a first appearance bail application.

The duty lawyer service is free of charge.

New duty advice services launched at Social Security Appeals Tribunal (SSAT)

A new duty advice service was launched at the Social Security Appeals Tribunal (SSAT). Working in close partnership are l-r: Legal Aid NSW lawyer Rachelle Johnston, Deputy Principal Member NSW/ACT (SSAT) Suellen Bullock, District Registrar NSW/ACT (SSAT) Catherine Cudmore and Legal Aid NSW lawyer Jackie Finlay. For more information, see New ways of doing business.

Duty lawyer services are available for children and adults involved in care and protection matters at every specialist Children’s Court in New South Wales, and at many regional courts when they sit as Children’s Courts.

The duty lawyer acts for either the children or the parents (or other eligible adults) on the first day that the case is heard by the Magistrate and, where possible, applies for a grant of aid to continue to act as the lawyer for that client in the ongoing matter.

Legal Aid NSW also provides duty lawyer services for people with a mental illness under the Mental Health Act 2007. Our Mental Health Advocacy Service provides duty services at the Mental Health Review Tribunal and at hospitals.

Legal Aid NSW also provides duty lawyer services for disadvantaged people involved in proceedings under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) and child support legislation. These services are provided across the state in the Family and Federal Circuit Courts.

Legal representation

Provided representation in 35,772 matters (11,138 provided inhouse and 24,634 assigned to private lawyers).

Legal Aid NSW provides legal representation in criminal law, family law and civil law matters to people who meet eligibility tests. Our policies can be viewed on our website at For lawyers > Policy Online.

Clients can apply for a grant of legal aid through a Legal Aid NSW office or through a private lawyer.

We operate a means test for grants of legal representation so that these services are targeted towards those who need them most. Most people granted legal aid are required to pay a contribution towards the costs of their legal representation.

For more information visit Get legal help > Apply for legal aid on our website.

Youth hotline

Received 16,373 calls, providing 6,320 legal advice services and 3,340 minor assistance services to young people.

Our telephone hotline provides legal advice, minor assistance and information to young people under 18, and operates from 9am to midnight weekdays, with a 24-hour service from Friday 9am to Sunday midnight and also on public holidays.

Many of these calls facilitate the operation of the Young Offenders Act 1997 where, after legal advice, young people make admissions to police and are then given cautions or referred to youth justice conferences by police, rather than being charged with offences and brought before a court.

Family dispute resolution

Held 2,726 conferences, reaching full or partial settlement in 79.7% of matters (full table in Appendix 7).

We provide family dispute resolution (FDR) conferences in family law matters to facilitate the resolution of disputes at an early stage. Parties are given the opportunity to negotiate a settlement without the need to go to court. FDR is also available for matters in late litigation. Before legal aid is granted for parties to be represented at a final hearing, if appropriate, the Court may refer parties to FDR. If a settlement is reached, consent orders may be drafted and filed in the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court.

Our family dispute resolution service has been expanded in recent years to provide mediation in the child protection jurisdiction and directly from Family Law Court registries through the Court Ordered Mediation Program.

At least one of the parties must have a grant of legal aid before a conference is organised.

Specialist services

Clients cleared several million dollars of fines debt in 2013–2014 through the Work and Development Order Scheme. The Legal Aid NSW Work and Development Order Service played a key role, working alongside State Debt Recovery and the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Ltd.

Specialist services are staffed by experts in their field. These include:

  • Adult Drug Court Service
  • Child Support Service
  • Children’s Legal Service (criminal matters)
  • Client Assessment and Referral Unit
  • Commonwealth Crime Unit
  • Coronial Inquest Unit
  • Early Intervention Unit (family law)
  • Homeless Legal Outreach Program
  • Mental Health Advocacy Service
  • Mortgage Hardship Service
  • Older Persons’ Legal and Education Program
  • Prisoners Legal Service
  • Sexual Assault Communications Privilege Service
  • Veterans’ Advocacy Service
  • Work and Development Order Service

There is more information about these services on our website at What we do.