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Annual Report 2015 - 2016

Our services—a snapshot

We provide a wide range of services to our clients

The information below shows a snapshot of our client services for 2015–2016. Three-year comparison tables can be viewed in Appendix 6.

Details about our achievements in client service delivery are summarised in the Legal Aid NSW Plan and expanded upon in the Client services section of this report.

Information about the law and legal services

Provided 528,798 information services

A 6.4% decrease 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 printed information 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.

* The decrease is largely due to new protocols that streamlined phone calls from prisoners, reducing the number of calls from prisoners.

Publications and Community Legal Education

Distributed 729,120 publications

A 3.1% increase on last year

Provided 2,243 community legal education sessions

A decrease of 24.6% on last year*

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

Our resources are available on our website under Factsheets and Resources and can be ordered online at Publications > Order a publication.

We conduct community legal education sessions at venues across the state for the public and community workers. These are tailored to suit the needs of particular audiences.

* The decrease is due to more efficient modes of service delivery such as webinars replacing traditional face-to-face delivery of community legal education.

Legal advice and minor assistance

Provided 147,419 advice and minor assistance services

A decrease of 2% on last year*

Free legal advice and minor assistance services are not means tested.

These services are available to everyone in New South Wales in 248 outreach locations around the state, as well as at our 24 offices.

During a short interview, 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 they can take.

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

Often this is all that is needed to help people resolve their legal issues, but clients who are due to appear in a court or tribunal may apply for a grant of legal aid for legal representation.

* A change in counting methodology contributed to this decrease.

Duty lawyer services

Provided 196,004 duty services

A 12.3% increase on last year

125,239 provided inhouse and 70,765 by private lawyers

Legal Aid NSW provides lawyers in a number of courts and tribunals throughout New South Wales. We refer to these as duty lawyers. The duty lawyer service is free.

Duty lawyers advise and/or represent disadvantaged people appearing before the Local and Children’s Courts on criminal charges. A duty lawyer is provided to all people in custody for a first appearance bail application.

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.

Duty lawyers are also available at Local Courts for victims of domestic and family violence.

We also provide duty lawyer services for disadvantaged people involved in proceedings under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) and child support legislation. These services are provided in the Family and Federal Circuit Courts. In some cases, they can assist in preparing urgent applications for court, where a child is at risk of harm.

Legal Aid NSW also provides duty lawyer services for people detained under the Mental Health Act 2007. Our Mental Health Advocacy Service and regional civil lawyers provide duty services at the Mental Health Review Tribunal and at hospitals.

Duty lawyer services are available at the NSW Civil and Administrative tribunal in Liverpool and Sydney, where our lawyers help people understand their claims and how the tribunal can help them. We offer telephone advice to people in rural and regional areas who are unable to attend either the tribunal or one of our offices.

Legal representation

Provided representation in 37,131 matters

A 5.1% increase on last year

11,837 provided inhouse and 25,294 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: www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au at For lawyers > Policy Online.

Clients can apply for a grant of legal aid through one of our offices or a private lawyer or by completing a form. We have a means test for grants of legal aid for legal representation so that 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.

Hotline for young people

Received 15,153 calls

A 1.71% decrease on last year

Provided 5,789 legal advice services

A 1.4% increase on last year

Provided 3,754 minor assistance services

A 6.1% increase on last year

Provided 3,773 legal information services

A decrease of 8.6% on last year*

Our telephone hotline for young people provides legal advice, minor assistance and information to young people under 18. It operates from 9am to midnight weekdays, with a 24-hour service from Friday 9am to Sunday midnight and public holidays. Many of these calls facilitate the operation of the Young Offenders Act 1997 where, after legal advice, young people may make admissions to police and may be given a caution or warning or referred to a youth justice conference by police, rather than being charged with offences and brought before a court.

* We improved the screening/referral processes to ensure that the service meets the current needs of children. This includes referring Hotline callers who may have previously been provided with information services in the first place, to Hotline lawyers for preliminary legal advice.

Family dispute resolution

Held 2,796 conferences

A 4.5% increase on last year

We reached full or partial settlement in 78.5%*

We provide family dispute resolution (FDR) conferences in family law matters to help resolve disputes at an early stage. Parties are given the opportunity to negotiate a settlement without the need to go to court. If they can agree, consent orders may be drafted and filed in the Family or Federal Circuit Court.

FDR is also available for matters late in litigation. If it is appropriate, the Court or Legal Aid NSW refers parties to FDR before legal aid is granted for representation at a final hearing.

We also provide mediation services for children and adults in care and protection matters, including contact disputes and adoption.

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

* This includes family law conferences in both the State and Commonwealth jurisdictions. The Commonwealth only rate was 78.2%.

Specialist services

We ran 17 specialist units and the newly established Domestic Violence Unit to help clients who have experienced domestic and family violence with their legal and non-legal needs.

Our specialist units provide services for particular client groups or in particular areas of law. They are staffed by experts in their field.

Specialist services include:

  • Adult Drug Court Service
  • Child Support Service
  • Children’s Civil Law Service
  • Children’s Legal Service (criminal matters)
  • Client Assessment and Referral Unit
  • Civil Law Service for Aboriginal Communities
  • Commonwealth Crime Unit
  • Coronial Inquest Unit
  • Domestic Violence Unit (includes South West Sydney Domestic Violence Unit)
  • Early Intervention Unit (family law)
  • Employment Law Service
  • Homeless Legal Outreach Program
  • Mental Health Advocacy Service
  • Prisoners Legal Service
  • Sexual Assault Communications Privilege Service
  • Veterans’ Advocacy Service
  • Work and Development Order Service
  • Youth Koori Court

There is information about these services on our website at www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au > What we do.