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Annual Report 2016 - 2017

Our policies help to narrow the ‘justice gap’

In 2016–2017, Legal Aid NSW amended selected policies to target our services to those most in need, ensuring access to justice while meeting ongoing funding challenges.

We ensured our eligibility policies meet the legal needs of the most disadvantaged people across New South Wales, particularly people experiencing, or at risk of, domestic or family violence, in a challenging funding environment.

Policy changes included taking into account personal vulnerability criteria to make sure more people facing disadvantage can access our services.

OBJECTIVE Access to justice

Employment policy targets older and younger workers who are vulnerable

In early 2016, we expanded the eligibility criteria for employment law matters by introducing a new test called the Social Disadvantage Test. The new test looks at financial and personal vulnerability and is intended to target the most vulnerable and socially disadvantaged workers. In November 2016, we expanded the personal vulnerability criteria to include young people up to the age of 25 and applicants who are 55 years of age and above.

Aid for serious crime prevention orders

In May 2017, we introduced a new policy which makes legal aid available for applicants in proceedings under the Crimes (Serious Crime Prevention Orders) Act 2016 (NSW) (the Act). The Act commenced in November 2016. It introduces serious crime prevention orders to restrict the activities of individuals or organisations in order to prevent, restrict or disrupt their involvement in serious crime-related activities. If a person breaches an order they can receive up to a five year gaol sentence. The new policy ensures disadvantaged people can access legal representation in these types of matters.

Ensuring vulnerable clients can access legal help

In 2016, we commenced a comprehensive review of the Legal Aid NSW eligibility policies to ensure our policies are clear and accessible and reflect our funding priorities. The review focussed on ensuring our policies also reflect the objectives of the Legal Aid NSW Domestic and Family Violence Strategy 2016–2018. The aim is for policies to clearly explain the availability of legal aid to applicants who are experiencing, or at risk of, domestic or family violence, ensuring those who are most vulnerable can access legal assistance in family law disputes.

Some policies were reviewed to assess the financial impact of the changes made to those policies, and to see how well they are working. These were reported to the Legal Aid NSW Board and appear in Policy review measured costs and impacts.

The year ahead

  • Develop a new type of service—known as Early Resolution Assistance—that will assist clients to resolve their legal disputes at an early stage in a dispute resolution forum.
  • Increase access to family law legal assistance services for people who experience domestic and family violence, by expanding and simplifying our eligibility guidelines.