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Annual Report 2015 - 2016

Community programs

Community legal centres

Legal Aid NSW administers State, Commonwealth and Public Purpose Fund funding for 36 Community Legal Centres (CLCs) in New South Wales.

CLCs provide free legal services to disadvantaged people. They are independent, non-profit organisations that are generally incorporated bodies managed by a board or management committee.

Legal Aid NSW also administers funding for Children’s Court Assistance Schemes that operate at seven Children’s Courts under the auspice of four CLCs.

Fact file
36 centres assisted 55,460 people
Provided 79,398 advice services to clients
Opened 8,930 new cases and completed 8,523 cases
Of the completed cases, 1,363 were major cases (complex/lengthy matters)
Delivered 1,032 education programs
Made 5,350 referrals to Legal Aid NSW
Received 2,906 referrals from Legal Aid NSW

Over 95% of major casework was directed to financially disadvantaged clients—exceeding the new benchmark of 85%.

Funding in 2015–2016

A total of $19,707,543 was paid to CLCs through the program comprising:

CLC funding pie chart

icon of finger pointingNote: See Appendix 5 for actual figures.

We also paid $883,500 to 22 CLCs in January 2015 for 18-month Care Partner arrangements under the ‘Safe Home for Life’ reforms. An additional $8,342.11 was paid to CLCs in 2015–2016 to attend care and protection training and conferences.

For the first time, the Commonwealth Government included funding for Community Legal Centres as part of the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services, starting from 1 July 2015. This means that the Commonwealth no longer has responsibility for the direct management of CLCs and is not a party to individual Service Agreements with CLCs. The program management role that Legal Aid NSW has undertaken expanded to include responsibility for a range of policy, managerial and administrative functions that had previously been a Commonwealth responsibility.

More details about CLC funding can be found in Appendix 5.

OBJECTIVE Excellence in legal services

We exceeded service targets for priority clients

New Community Legal Services Program Service Agreements (CLSP Service Agreements) were made between Legal Aid NSW and each CLC to reflect new requirements under the NPA, including introducing a benchmark requiring at least 85% of all major casework to be targeted towards clients who are defined as ‘financially disadvantaged’. CLCs in New South Wales exceeded this benchmark with over 95% of major casework directed to this client group.

Targeting priority groups under the new agreement is consistent with two-year strategic targets for each CLC that were implemented in 2014–2015 to increase service delivery to identified priority clients. As a result of these targets, the following increases in service delivery to priority clients were achieved in 2015–2016:

  • Increased service delivery to clients with low English proficiency from 8.4% in 2013–2014 to 12.6% in 2015–2016, representing an increase from 4,678 to 7,435 clients.
  • Increased service delivery to Aboriginal clients from 5.8% in 2013–2014 to 6.2% in 2015–2016, representing an increase from 3,166 to 3,643 clients.
  • Increased service delivery to clients with a disability from 17.5% in 2013–2014 to 18.8 % in 2015–2016, representing an increase from 9,005 to 11,108 clients.

New standards enforce culturally appropriate services

A new service standard was introduced as part of the CLSP Service Agreements in 2015–2016 to make sure that CLCs provide culturally appropriate services to Aboriginal people and communities and provide a culturally safe environment for Aboriginal clients and staff. All CLCs have developed and started to implement plans to meet this standard by the end of 2016–2017.

Early intervention reforms

In January 2015, Legal Aid NSW entered into Care Partner Service Agreements with 22 CLCs to pilot early intervention and alternative dispute resolution in response to the Safe Home for Life reforms to care and protection legislation. This involved establishing local partnerships with Family and Community Services. A review of the Care Partner Program was completed in May 2016 and the recommendations will be implemented in 2016–2017.

Over 95% of major casework was directed to financially disadvantaged clients—exceeding the new benchmark of 85%.

Increasing efficiency in anticipation of reduced funding

Legal Aid NSW and Community Legal Centres NSW have worked with CLCs on a number of projects to reduce administrative costs and plan for sustainable service delivery across the CLC sector, anticipating the Commonwealth funding decreases that will occur in 2017–2018. Projects that started in 2015–2016 include:

  • centralising a financial management function at CLCNSW which small CLCs can procure on a ‘fee for service’ basis rather than retaining individual staff in each centre;
  • brokering for reduced rent and identifying savings for sector-wide IT requirements;
  • co-locating and amalgamating CLCs to achieve economies of scale; and
  • researching opportunities for other sources of revenue.

Icon for The year aheadThe year ahead

  • Introduce a new case management and reporting system for the CLC sector, allowing CLCs to collect data in line with the Data Standards Manual under the National Partnership Agreement.
  • Implement more strategies for sector sustainability, anticipating the Commonwealth funding decrease in 2017–2018.
  • Negotiate the allocation of funding for each CLC for 2017–2018 given the significant decrease in available Commonwealth funding.

Women's Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Program (WDVCAP)

Legal Aid NSW administers NSW Government funding for 28 Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services (WDVCASs) and their peak representative body, the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service NSW Inc.

WDVCASs provide information, advocacy and referrals to women seeking legal protection from domestic violence through an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO) at 114 Local Courts across the state.

WDVCASs are also key partners in the implementation of the New South Wales Government’s It Stops Here: Standing Together to End Domestic Violence in New South Wales domestic and family violence reforms through their hosting of Local Coordination Points. This year, from 1 July 2015, they also joined their Justice partners in implementing the NSW Domestic Violence Justice Strategy 2013–2017.

Fact file
Provided services at 114 Local Courts
Provided 145,341 services to 39,434 clients–a 42% increase in services from last year to 73% more clients
Assisted clients to obtain 12,160 final Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders, a 6% increase on last year
Accepted 100,674 client referrals from the NSW Police Force and NSW Local Courts through an online platform, the Central Referral Point
Made 125,196 referrals of clients to other services, an increase of 47% on last year
11.1% of WDVCAS clients identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
16.8% of clients were from culturally diverse backgrounds
7.7% of WDVCAS clients identified as having a disability

Funding in 2015–2016

In 2015–16, $10,743,611 was paid in grants through the Program to incorporated, not for profit, non-government service providers under a triennial funding agreement.

This amount includes $1,314,670 paid by NSW Treasury through Women NSW to support the six Local Coordination Points hosted by WDVCASs as part of the NSW Government It Stops Here: Standing Together to End Domestic Violence in New South Wales domestic and family violence reforms.

The total grant amount also includes a 20% increase to base WDVCAP funding provided for the period 1 January–30 June 2016, to support the 28 WDVCASs to meet the increase in demand for services as a result of the NSW Domestic Violence Justice Strategy.

Details of grant allocations are in Appendix 4.

OBJECTIVE Access to justice

More women had access to justice

As a result of the reforms, details of all domestic violence incidents attended by NSW Police are registered on a Victims Services electronic platform, the Central Referral Point. The Central Referral Point then electronically refers a woman’s details to the WDVCAS located closest to her postcode.

In addition, It Stops here: Safer Pathway aims to address serious threats to a victim’s safety through a coordinated, streamlined response. Safer Pathway commenced at two launch sites, Orange and Waverley, in September 2014 and was expanded to Parramatta, Bankstown, Broken Hill and Tweed Heads on 1 July 2015.

In these locations, Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services proactively support women experiencing domestic violence and organise Safety Action Meetings at which individual cases are discussed to ensure the women are safe and have the necessary support.

We assisted 73% more women with early intervention and support at court.

Early safety intervention and support for more women at court

The numbers of women receiving support from the state’s 28 WDVCASs rose by 73% after the introduction of the NSW Government’s strategy. This large increase means that many more women used the courts to seek apprehended domestic violence orders and received the ongoing support of WDVCAS workers during their court experience. They also received help with other related issues such as housing, and counselling.

Number of women supported by WDVCASs

WDVCAS support chart - 2014-2015 22,775; 2015-2016 39,434

OBJECTIVE Excellence in legal services

Official recognition for the achievements of workers

In 2015–2016 the contribution of a number of WDVCAS workers was officially acknowledged.

In October 2015, Tanya Whitehouse of Macarthur WDVCAS was presented with the Law and Justice Foundation’s Justice Medal by the NSW Attorney General.

In May 2016, Josie Gregory of Northern Sydney WDVCAS was honoured as the 2016 Willoughby Local Woman of the Year, receiving her Award from the NSW Treasurer and Member for Willoughby Gladys Berejiklian. Also in May 2016, Kerry Mobbs, Coordinator of the South Eastern WDVCAS at Queanbeyan received an award for ‘Service to the Community’ from the Member for Monaro, John Barilaro.

This year also saw the Program itself receive recognition from the NSW Police Force. The Award was made by Assistant Commissioner Mark Murdoch APM for the WDVCAP’s “Ongoing commitment and support to working in partnership with the NSW Police Force to reduce domestic and family violence and improve outcomes for victims and their families.”

OBJECTIVE Strong partnerships

Safety Action Meetings show unprecedented collaboration

As a result of the NSW Government’s justice strategy and the continued roll-out of Safer Pathway, 2015–2016 saw the strengthening of existing WDVCAS partnerships and the creation of many new collaborative relationships.

Throughout the state, the referral networks so essential to the success of the justice strategy ensured women received the range of support services they needed to be safe, while new local and regional alliances were forged to further the interests of women and children who have experienced domestic violence.

In the six Safer Pathway sites, people identified as being at serious threat using a risk assessment tool, were referred to Safety Action Meetings where government and non-government agencies worked together to develop safety action plans aimed at lessening or preventing serious threats to a victim’s life, health or safety. The Safety Action Meetings organised by the six Local Coordination Points have provided a model of unprecedented collaboration between government and non-government partners.

WDVCAP commissioned a training video showing the effectiveness of Safety Action Meetings. It was made in Broken Hill using Safety Action Meeting participants and simulated case studies.

Celebrating 20 years of supporting over 320,000 women

In June 2016, the WDVCAP marked its 20th anniversary with the theme 20 years of making a difference. The Program’s biannual forum provided the ideal platform to celebrate the achievements of the hundreds of dedicated workers who have provided advocacy and support to domestic violence victims over two decades.

How we made a difference—workers past and present record their personal contribution on a timeline spanning 20 years.

The NSW Attorney General, Gabrielle Upton MP launched the celebrations. During the forum, over 300 attendees learned about the early days of the Program when the law was not as supportive of domestic violence victims and WDVCAS workers operated from card tables set up in courthouse vestibules.

Distinguished guests from the NSW Police Force, the Family Court of Australia, and Health NSW shared their experiences of working in the domestic violence field and contemplated the benefits of reforms and changes which have taken place since they began their careers.

Icon for The year aheadThe year ahead

  • Roll out more Safer Pathway sites.
  • Work in partnership with Victims Services to ensure a redesigned platform for the Central Referral Point helps women who have experienced domestic violence receive timely support.