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Annual Report 2015 - 2016

What we did in the past five years

Legal Aid NSW is helping more people through better targeted, responsive services

Legal Aid NSW is continuing to improve the reach of its services to disadvantaged communities across New South Wales as shown in the five-year performance charts below.

This year we have assisted more people through services that are more complex and substantial in nature, such as case grants, duty services, legal advice, including outreach advice services, and family law mediation conferences. Some less complex services such as information services, minor assistance and community legal education have decreased this year, though they show an overall increase over a five year period.

Our focus is on the most disadvantaged people who need our services, such as Aboriginal communities, clients with complex needs and those who face difficulty in accessing our services.

OBJECTIVE: Promoting access to justice

Total client services

Total client services bar chart - 2011–2012 931,141; 2012–2013 972,650; 2013–2014 1,003,224; 2014–2015 925,253; 2015–2016 909,352The count of total client services peaked in 2013–2014, before we introduced new protocols to streamline telephone calls from prisoners.

Those protocols reduced the volume of incoming calls from prisoners, and in information services being delivered. Information services are large in volume but very low in complexity.

The volumes of both duty and advice services, which are more substantial and resource-intensive than information services, have increased significantly over the past five years and their highest ever service volumes were recorded in 2015–2016. Grants of aid were also higher in 2015–2016 than in the previous two years. Minor assistance services were lower because of changed data recording practices in preparation for the introduction of new service types during 2016–2017.

Duty services

Duty services bar chart - 2011–2012 171,744; 2012–2013 172,188; 2013–2014 171,765; 2014–2015 174,562; 2015–2016 196,004Duty service volumes were substantially higher in 2015–2016 than in any other year. This was mainly because of large increases in criminal law duty services provided by both inhouse and private lawyers. The higher service volumes were spread across a wide variety of geographic locations and offence types, with the largest increases for inhouse lawyers relating to driving offences, including driving under the influence of drugs; possession and use of prohibited drugs; domestic violence related offences; and stealing from retail stores.

Outreach advice services

Outreach legal advice services bar chart - 2011–2012 11,446; 2012–2013 12,781; 2013–2014 15,558; 2014–2015 14,769; 2015–2016 17,771Legal Aid NSW has continued to increase its emphasis on reaching clients throughout New South Wales, including in areas where there is no nearby Legal Aid NSW office—particularly in those areas with more disadvantaged populations. Legal Aid NSW establishes outreaches in accordance with the Best practice principles for Legal Aid NSW outreach services. Outreaches are planned in response to evidence of legal need in an identified client group, community or place that lacks access to appropriate legal services.

In 2015–2016, we achieved our highest total outreach advice service figure for any year to date. Our network of mobile lawyers, our specialist Civil Law Service for Aboriginal Communities and our collaboration with health and welfare agencies through health justice partnerships, where on-site legal advice especially in civil and family law is provided in health-related settings, have in part contributed to this increase.

Legal advice

Legal advice services bar chart - 2011–2012 86,271; 2012–2013 92,854; 2013–2014 98,939; 2014–2015 96,410; 2015–2016 104,547The volume of these services increased across all law types as demand for these services grew and our outreach services expanded. Our capacity to meet this demand has also improved, with more lawyers employed than in earlier years. For example, the specialist Civil Law Service for Aboriginal Communities, and family law specialist services, expanded their services to Aboriginal people across New South Wales through outreach in many Aboriginal communities. These expanded services were an initiative in the Legal Aid NSW Plan 2015–2016.

Minor assistance

Minor assistance services bar chart - 2011–2012 25,076; 2012–2013 35,865; 2013–2014 41,790; 2014–2015 53,986; 2015–2016 42,872Many services which have previously been recorded as minor assistance will in future become part of two new service types to be introduced during 2016–2017, once final system adjustments and other preparations have been completed. Our preparations for these changes have seen lower volumes of minor assistance recorded as separate services. The numerical decrease reflects changed recording practices, rather than an actual decrease in services provided to clients.

Community legal education sessions

Community legal education sessions bar chart - 2011–2012 2,211; 2012–2013 2,515; 2013–2014 3,160; 2014–2015 2,975; 2015–2016 2,243Community legal education (CLE) sessions have decreased this year as other avenues of information and education are publicised through our comprehensive website resources, and more efficient modes of service delivery, such as webinars have been introduced, replacing in some instances, traditional face-to face delivery of CLE. CLE and information services were reviewed this year and a new structure will be implemented in 2016–2017.

Aboriginal clients—Percentage of services

Aboriginal clients: percentage of total case and inhouse duty services bar chart - 2011–2012 10.2%; 2012–2013 10.3%; 2013–2014 10.2%; 2014–2015 11.3%; 2015–2016 11.5%Aboriginal people continue to experience significant socio-economic disadvantage and substantial over-representation in the criminal justice system, as well as high levels of legal need relating to civil law matters such as consumer and tenancy law. Legal Aid NSW has continued its efforts to make its services more available and accessible to Aboriginal clients. We continue to have a higher proportion (5.1%) of Aboriginal staff, exceeding the Government benchmark, and we also have a specialist Civil Law Service for Aboriginal Communities. There has been a steady rising trend in the percentage of our services provided to Aboriginal people.

Family law mediation conferences

Family law mediation conferences bar chart - 2011–2012 2,667; 2012–2013 2,665; 2013–2014 2,726; 2014–2015 2,676; 2015–2016 2,796The steady increase in demand for these services saw more family mediation conferences held in 2015–2016 than in any other year to date. Family dispute resolution conferences help resolve disputes at an early stage allowing parties to negotiate a settlement without the need to go to court.

Significant increases across services since 2011–2012

Significant increases since 2011-2012 - Duty (representation appearances at courts and tribunals) 14.1%; Legal advice 21.2%; Outreach advice 55.3%; Family law mediation conferences 8.1%