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Annual Report 2014 - 2015

Efficiency measures

OBJECTIVE: Excellence in legal services

Recording our work to show it has real value

In 2013, the Attorney General recommended that Legal Aid NSW introduce a system to enable it to record the time spent by its lawyers and the cost of their activities. In September 2014, Legal Aid NSW commenced a pilot of an activity based time recording and reporting system known as Activity Based Costing.

An external consultant evaluated the pilot and submitted her report to the CEO of Legal Aid NSW in January 2015. In accordance with the report’s recommendations, the CEO announced in March 2015 that activity based costing would be rolled out to the remainder of the inhouse practice at Legal Aid NSW.

The roll-out will commence in July 2015 and will be staggered across sites, with staff at each site starting to record their time as soon as they complete training. The rollout is scheduled for completion in March 2016 and will be followed by an internal review before activity based time recording commences formally in July 2016.

During the rollout period a reporting capability and costing methodology will be developed.

Streamlining access to legal services for prisoners

The steady increase in the volume of telephone calls from prisoners to Legal Aid NSW and LawAccess NSW was a catalyst for a collaborative initiative with Corrective Services NSW to streamline prisoner access to legal assistance.

When in custody, prisoners can make free calls using the Common Auto Dial List (CADL) system. Telephone numbers on this system are preset and include a range of legal and non-legal services. In 2013-2014, Corrective Services NSW recorded that prisoners made over 100,000 calls to Legal Aid NSW and over 85,000 calls to LawAccess on the CADL system.

A continued increase in call volume was not sustainable and limited our capacity to respond in a timely and appropriate way to calls from other clients. We worked together with Corrective Services NSW to implement new protocols that enable prisoners to contact their lawyers directly and maximise the time during the call when they can speak to their lawyer.

The benefits to prisoners are that the new system enables them to connect faster to their lawyer and maximise the limited amount of time they have on legal phone calls communicating directly with their lawyer.

The new arrangements commenced on 1 November 2014. Since then, both LawAccess NSW and Legal Aid NSW have noted a decrease in the volume of prisoner calls. For more details see New arrangements for prisoner calls.

New data governance framework has realistic goals

Legal Aid NSW developed a Data Governance Framework to address the issues of data quality, recording and monitoring. The framework was finalised in June 2015 and will be implemented over a two-year period.

Costs recovered successfully in criminal law matters

The Grants Division identified 84 matters where lawyers had succeeded with costs applications in legally-aided criminal law proceedings. At 30 June 2015, claims valued at $913,940 had been submitted and $496,647 had been received.

OBJECTIVE: Supporting our people

Better resourcing improved efficiency and coordination

An expanded relief unit increased our capacity to deliver family law relief and advocacy services, especially in rural and remote areas. The new team supports staff members based in regional offices going on leave by picking up their casework and advocacy work.

We appointed a domestic violence specialist lawyer to foster a more coordinated response to the legal needs of victims of domestic violence. The lawyer worked closely with a Family Violence Specialist Network with representatives from across the organisation. Training for staff and panel lawyers focused on improved referral pathways.

A new Image Library provides a central portal for staff to browse for photos and graphics required for their work producing Legal Aid NSW publications. The efficient classification system allows staff to find their images quickly.

Regional offices increased their capacity to provide more services

Refurbishments to offices in the north and north west of New South Wales will support staff to better service our clients and local partners. A new office was opened in Port Macquarie in response to community need (see Port Macquarie). Staff had the office ready for opening in record time. Tamworth and Orange Legal Aid NSW offices were expanded to increase their service capacity.

At the launch of our new Port Macquarie office: Craig Smith, Chair of the Legal Aid NSW Board; Leslie Williams MP, State Member for Port Macquarie; Bill Grant, CEO of Legal Aid NSW; and Rob Hoyles, Acting Solicitor in Charge of the new office

Above: At the launch of our new Port Macquarie office: Craig Smith, Chair of the Legal Aid NSW Board; Leslie Williams MP, State Member for Port Macquarie; Bill Grant, CEO of Legal Aid NSW; and Rob Hoyles, Acting Solicitor in Charge of the new office

Supporting staff to deal with difficult situations

We support and train our staff so they know what to do in situations where they are dealing with behaviour that might be difficult or dangerous. New guidelines help to identify risk and keep staff safe. Included in the guidelines are a new incident report form and a security strategy for managing medium or high-risk behaviour and incidents. Our client records indicate when a client has a record of previous difficult behaviour.

Staff travelling long distances need to be safe

The safety of our employees travelling long distances and working in isolation is a priority under the Legal Aid NSW Plan. We introduced new safe driving guidelines and upgraded safety kits for all vehicles to include first aid kits, reflective vests, fire extinguishers, safety triangles, gloves, and a torch.

Twenty-nine staff participated in safe driving programs. The success of the driving program resulted in further funding for 2015-2016.

Lawyer Anisa Malhas sets up her safety kit as she travels through the Hunter region, providing advice at different outreach locations

Above: Lawyer Anisa Malhas sets up her safety kit as she travels through the Hunter region, providing advice at different outreach locations.

The year ahead

Improve access to legal services in correctional centres through better use of technology.

Develop a business case for a new case management system.

Develop a strategy to capture data and information that demonstrates the value and quality of Legal Aid NSW services.

Implement Activity Based Costing across all legal practices.

Implement the new Data Governance Framework and monitor its key performance indicators.

Train staff in managing unreasonable behaviour and security incidents.

Meet the accommodation needs of our expanding services across the state, in particular:

  • Newcastle with new premises that are closer to the new Justice Precinct
  • Sutherland to accommodate service expansion
  • Central Sydney to accommodate the increase in special project staff
  • Fairfield to accommodate service expansion and improve client service areas
  • Parramatta Justice Precinct Offices to accommodate expansion in Children’s Legal Services.