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Annual Report 2014 - 2015

Measuring performance

Indicators and targets help improve services to clients

Legal Aid NSW uses a range of methods to measure performance and continues to strengthen its focus on performance measurement.

High levels of performance against the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services (NPA) were achieved again in 2014-2015 which is the final year of the current NPA (see below).

The biennial client satisfaction survey was conducted in 2015, achieving a high 87 per cent satisfaction rating for advice and minor assistance services.

Accessibility for grants of aid has improved this year after the Board of Legal Aid NSW approved an increase to the means test threshold in August 2014, with the means test income limit as a percentage of the national minimum wage now at 60.1 per cent.

A business intelligence tool has played a significant role in providing accurate and timely data to staff through accessible dashboards, facilitating improved service measurement, planning and decision making.

Key performance indicators 2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015
Community awareness of legal rights and responsibilities
Client satisfaction rating 91.50% N/A (surveys conducted every 2 years) 87.00%
Average waiting time for advice appointments 0.96 weeks 0.77 0.87
Number of information services provided 633,743 654,958 564,958
Rate per 100,000 of NSW population accessing information services 8,608 8,740 7,441
Number of advice and minor assistance services provided 128,719 140,729 150,396
Rate per 100,000 of NSW population accessing advice and minor assistance services 1,748 1,878 1,981
Number of publications distributed 731,526 712,395 707,409
Rate per 100,000 of people accessing publications 9,936 9,507 9,317
Accessibility of legal aid
Means test income limit as a % of national minimum weekly wage 52.40% 51.10% 60.10%
Percentage of Local Court sittings serviced by duty solicitor schemes 100.00% 100.00% 100.00%
Representation service standards
Percentage of satisfactory comprehensive inhouse file reviews 98.30% 96.80% 97.1%*
Number of Legal Aid NSW lawyers with specialist accreditation 67 76 63
Number of Legal Aid NSW lawyer attendances at training sessions 2,242 3,306 3,118
Number of private lawyer attendances at Legal Aid NSW training sessions 527 1,313 882

*This is a combined family and civil law percentage. Inhouse file review figures for criminal law are not included this year because of a change in process during 2014-2015.

Service delivery targets 2013-2014 performance 2014-2015 target 2014-2015 performance 2015-2016 target
Legal advice services 98,939 99,000 96,410 96,500
Information services* 654,958 655,000 564,958 565,000
Inhouse and assigned duty services 171,765 173,000 174,562 175,000
Conferences-family dispute resolution 2,726 2,750 2,676 2,700
Community legal education sessions 3,160 3,200 2,975 3,000
Outreach legal advice services 15,558 15,800 14,769 14,800
Locations with regular outreach 194 200 210 210
Locations with regular outreach for Aboriginal communities 31 31 34 35

NOTE: The level of one-off Commonwealth funding decreased in 2014-2015 with a consequent reduction in planned services. Targets for 2015-2016 reflect the new funding environment, including the commencement of the new National Partnership Agreement for Legal Assistance Services 2015-2020.

*The introduction of new protocols to streamline the volume of telephone calls from prisoners has contributed to the decrease in the volume of calls and consequently, to information services (see Streamlining access to legal services for prisoners).

Reporting against the National Partnership Agreement

Commonwealth funding to Legal Aid NSW is governed by the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services (NPA).

The NPA 2010-2014 was extended for a further year to enable the Commonwealth, States and Territories to negotiate new legal assistance funding arrangements. The new National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services 2015-2020 will come into effect on 1 July 2015. The NPA requires agencies to report against prescribed performance indicators and benchmarks. Reporting against some indicators is restricted to Commonwealth services, e.g. duty services, dispute resolution services, and grants of aid. Other reporting includes both Commonwealth and State services, e.g. early intervention services, the number of successful legal aid service outcomes delivered and total services.

Not all performance indicators are able to be reported against benchmarks due to the data recording practices prior to the benchmark year. For example, Commonwealth dispute resolution and post resolution services. Preventative services, which include publications and website page views, are included under total services.

PRIORITY: Excellence in legal services

Strong performance against benchmarks and high client satisfaction rate

"There was a 98 per cent increase in early intervention services-well above the Commonwealth benchmark."

Legal Aid NSW has performed well under the NPA in 2014-2015 against a range of benchmarks, particularly in early intervention services. Early intervention services (excluding State criminal law), for example, recorded an increase of 97.7 per cent, well in excess of the Commonwealth benchmark.

The benchmark requiring a 25 per cent increase in the total number of services has also been exceeded, with total services increasing by as much as 47.3 per cent in the year under review.

If website page views and State criminal law are included, the increase in total services was 109 per cent.

Client satisfaction feedback is also a performance benchmark under the NPA. The 2015 Legal Aid NSW biennial client satisfaction survey found a high level of satisfaction with Legal Aid NSW advice and minor assistance services with an overall client satisfaction rate of 87 per cent (see Measuring client satisfaction).

Reporting against Commonwealth benchmarks

Performance indicator Performance benchmark Service count 2009-2010 Service count 2014-2015 Percentage increase between 2009-2010 and 2014-2015
Number of early intervention services delivered 30% increase in the number of early intervention services 59,927 118,481 97.70%
Total number of services delivered 25% increase in the total number of services delivered 3,182,398 6,649,717 109.00%
Total number of services delivered excluding website page views and State criminal law* 25% increase in the total number of services delivered 1,167,735 1,720,057 47.30%

*State criminal law services have been excluded from these counts because they are not early intervention in character.

Report highlights the extent of unmet legal need and recommends more funding

The Productivity Commission Report of Inquiry into Access to Justice Arrangements, September 2014, highlighted the quality of Legal Aid NSW services, stating "Legal Aid NSW exemplifies leading practice with its civil law division and services".

The Productivity Commission recognised that a well-functioning civil justice system underpins social cohesion and economic activity and that government-funded legal assistance is "an integral part of ensuring that the justice system is accessible to all". The Report makes extensive references to Legal Aid NSW funded services, including the Family Law Early Intervention Unit, legal advice outreach services, duty services and LawAccess NSW.

A key finding of the Report is the extent of unmet legal need within the community. Recognising that a failure to address unmet legal need leads to adverse consequences for individuals and the wellbeing of the community, the Productivity Commission recommended an immediate injection of $200 million per annum nationally from the Commonwealth and State and Territory governments to provide more family and civil law legal services to disadvantaged people. This funding would "address the most pressing needs" by relaxing the legal aid means test, maintaining existing frontline services that have a demonstrated benefit to the community, and expanding the availability of civil law assistance.

In addition to the extra $200 million in annual funding, the Productivity Commission made a number of recommendations to improve legal assistance over the longer term. These recommendations include assessing the level of funding needed if legal assistance services are to meet government priorities.

Legal Aid NSW participated extensively in the Productivity Commission Inquiry and welcomed the focus the Inquiry gave to ensuring that disadvantaged people receive the legal assistance they need.

The Report can be viewed in the completed inquiries section of the Productivity Commission's website www.pc.gov.au

The year ahead

Implement the first year of the new NPA 2015-2020 in collaboration with the legal assistance sector and the Department of Justice.