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Annual Report 2016 - 2017

Community programs

Community Legal Centres

Legal Aid NSW administered the Community Legal Centre Program for 32 Community Legal Centres (CLCs) in New South Wales and the state peak body, Community Legal Centres NSW (CLCNSW).

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
32 centres assisted 36,748 people
Provided 43,117 advices to clients
Opened 6,220 new cases and completed 6,150 cases
Delivered 1,032 education programs
Made and received 77,023 referrals

Funding in 2016–2017

A total of $22,193,047 was paid to CLCs through the program comprising:

The PPF also provides funding directly to some CLCs.

Legal Aid NSW also provided $442,223 to 12 CLCs for providing early intervention legal assistance under the Care Partner Program and an additional $25,000 to support CLC attendance at training on care and protection matters.

More details about funding can be found in Appendix 5.

OBJECTIVE Excellence in legal services

New funding will assist in meeting increasing demand for services

Community Legal Centres continued to exceed the benchmark for providing representation services to clients who are defined as ‘financially disadvantaged’. In 2016–2017, 95.4 per cent of major casework was directed to financially disadvantaged clients—exceeding the benchmark of 85 per cent.

In April 2017, the NSW Attorney General announced an increase of over $6 million in additional funding for the CLC Program over two years. This funding was provided on the principle that no CLC would be 'worse off' in 2017–2018 than in 2016–2017.

The Commonwealth Attorney-General also announced funding of $3.27 million per annum for the remaining three years of the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services 2015-2020 (the NPA) for the provision of family law services and legal services for people experiencing or at risk of family violence. The Premier signed the varied NPA on 27 June 2017. This reinstated funding which was due to be cut from the New South Wales CLC Program.

New funding has been distributed based on Common-wealth and State priorities, and the needs-based funding methodology. The new funding allocation approach for 2017–2018 was approved by the Legal Aid NSW Board. The NSW Attorney General also announced that there would be a review to inform future allocations from 2018-2019 onwards.

" Over ninety five per cent of major casework was directed to financially disadvantaged clients—exceeding the benchmark of 85 per cent."

Engaging earlier with families that are at risk

In 2016–2017, Legal Aid NSW implemented recommendations arising from a review of the Care Partner Program which commenced in January 2015. The program was introduced as part of an early intervention and alternative dispute resolution pilot in response to the Safe Home for Life reforms to care and protection legislation. A final review of the program was endorsed by the Legal Aid NSW CEO in June 2017.

As a result, new Care Partner Service Agreements will be issued to the 12 participating CLCs. These new agreements will provide further opportunities for CLCs to continue important work engaging earlier in care and protection matters with at risk families, and building on their capacity to deliver these services.

New case management and reporting database

The National Association of CLCs (NACLC) has worked to develop the Community Legal Assistance Services System (CLASS), the new case management and reporting database for the CLC sector. CLCs migrated to CLASS in March 2017. Legal Aid NSW is continuing to work with NACLC to ensure that reports will be available for planning of service delivery, analysis and reporting to the Commonwealth Government under the NPA. However, at time of publishing, there had been delays in CLASS being able to fully support CLC data reporting.

Planning for sustainable service delivery

Legal Aid NSW, CLCNSW and individual CLCs have continued to work on projects to reduce administrative costs and plan for sustainable service delivery into the future. Outcomes achieved in 2016–2017 include:

  • amalgamating three CLCs to form Western Sydney CLC to reduce administrative costs and ensure continued services are delivered to the areas of greatest need
  • co-locating CLCNSW and Welfare Rights Centre to reduce rental and overhead costs
  • negotiating a cheaper secure document storage service resulting in Sydney-based CLCs either saving on archive costs and/or having more office space to engage volunteers
  • consolidating legal information and education resources by a range of CLCs
  • increased participation of CLCs in the NSWBuy/ Procurepoint scheme run by the State Government which has resulted in significant cost savings.

The year ahead

  • Work with CLCs to identify and implement service delivery strategies for family law and family violence services and monitor progress towards NPA benchmarks for financial disadvantage.
  • Assess CLC compliance with Aboriginal cultural safety standards and other service standards.
  • Work with CLCs to implement further administrative efficiencies, including new sector-wide information technology and telecommunication systems.
  • Participate in the State Government review of CLC funding which is likely to inform funding for 2018-2019 and beyond.

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. They play a key role in the New South Wales Government’s Safer Pathway strategy, acting as hosts for Local Coordination Points. See below.

Fact file
A 9% increase in the number of clients compared with last year
A 6% increase in the number of services provided compared with last year
11% of WDVCAS clients identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
18% of clients were from culturally diverse backgrounds
7% of WDVCAS clients identified as having a disability

" Client numbers continue to rise since the Domestic Violence Justice Strategy was introduced in 2015–2016."

Funding in 2016–2017

In 2016–2017, $17,067,620 was paid in grants through the Program to incorporated, not for profit, non-government service providers under a triennial funding agreement. These service providers host WDVCASs in 28 locations across New South Wales.

This amount includes $6,012,840 paid by NSW Treasury through Women NSW to support the 27 Local Coordination Points (LCPs) hosted by WDVCASs as part of the NSW Government's It Stops Here: Standing together to end domestic and family violence in New South Wales reforms. It does not include Commonwealth Family Advocacy Support Service funding for the period April to June 2017.

In addition to recurrent WDVCAP funding, total funding amounts include an additional allowance to support the WDVCASs in the implementation of the New South Wales Domestic Violence Justice Strategy.

Details of grant allocations are in Appendix 4.

OBJECTIVE Access to justice

More support for those impacted by domestic and family violence

In 2016–2017, WDVCASs supported 43,006 clients, a nine per cent increase from 2015–2016. WDVCASs provided 154,277 services, an increase of six per cent from the previous year.

Clients were referred by WDVCASs to local agencies for a broad range of services, including family support and counselling, accommodation and health services, and legal advice on Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders, tenancy and child protection.

A new service for Walgett addresses a geographic gap

Castlereagh Local Area Command (LAC) has been the only LAC not covered by a WDVCAS. In April 2017, the State Government announced that a new WDVCAS would commence operations from July, covering Coonamble, Lightning Ridge and Walgett Local Courts. WDVCAP has completed the tender process to find a suitable service provider to host the new WDVCAS, with the new service due to commence in July 2017.

Protection for victims strategy rolled out to 21 additional locations

WDVCASs are key partners in the implementation of the New South Wales Government’s It Stops Here: Standing together to end domestic and family violence in New South Wales reforms. WDVCAP and the WDVCASs were chosen to implement the Safer Pathway strategy and host Local Coordination Points.

Safer Pathway includes a risk identification tool, and electronic management of referrals from domestic violence incidents attended by the NSW Police Force to a Central Referral Point and subsequently to Local Coordination Points (LCPs). Safer Pathway provides improved reach to victims, and Safety Action Meetings improve the safety of victims who are identified as being at serious threat of harm or death.

WDVCAP rolled out 12 new Safer Pathway sites in November 2016 at Blacktown, Coffs Harbour, Deniliquin, Far South Coast, Mount Druitt, Newcastle, Nowra, Newtown, Taree, Wagga Wagga, Wollongong and Wyong. A further nine sites commenced operations in March 2017 at Bourke, Campbelltown, Griffith, Hunter Valley, Lismore, Northern Beaches, Queanbeyan, St George and Tamworth. There were 27 Safer Pathway sites in operation as at July 2017.

" A collaborative service model—Safer Pathway—was rolled out to 21 more locations."

Using a mix of methods to support women

WDVCAP took a number of steps aimed at supporting women. These included:

  • a new 1800 number (1800 938 227) so that women anywhere in New South Wales can be directed to their local WDVCAS
  • responsibility for providing support services for women at four Family Court Registries—part of the new FASS service that aims to bridge the gap across Commonwealth family law, state domestic violence and state child protection jurisdictions for families (see New approach to keep children and families safer)
  • re-publishing Charmed and Dangerous, which provides information for women on how to improve their safety in five languages
  • engaging an Aboriginal project officer in January 2017, to improve engagement with Aboriginal women and communities
  • finalising an agreement with the NSW Police Force to run Domestic Violence Prosecutor Clinics. Clinics provide an opportunity for domestic violence victims to prepare for defended hearings.

OBJECTIVE Excellence in legal services

In 2016, WDVCAP was a finalist in the NSW Premier’s Awards category Reducing Domestic Violence for its work on the Safer Pathway rollout.

WDVCAP training for WDVCAS staff was revised to address contemporary issues in domestic and family violence, including trauma informed counselling.

OBJECTIVE Strong partnerships

The WDVCAP supported each new Safer Pathway site with an information session for community representatives, Safety Action Meeting training, mentoring and refresher training.

Training was provided on Safer Pathway to over 2,030 people across the state in 2016–2017. Representatives from the NSW Police Force, NSW Health, Family and Community Services, Community Corrections, Education and a range of non-government organisations attended the training. WDVCAP also produced a training DVD to demonstrate all aspects of a Safety Action Meeting to stakeholders.

WDVCAP provided specialist training sessions for NSW Police Force Domestic Violence Liaison Officers and Prosecutors.

The year ahead

  • Roll out more Safer Pathway sites at Local Coordination Points hosted by WDVCASs.
  • Commence operations at the new Castlereagh WDVCAS.
  • Train and mentor WDVCAS and LCP staff across New South Wales, so that those impacted by domestic and family violence will receive the best possible services.