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Annual Report 2016 - 2017

What we did over the past year

We supported our staff to provide the best possible services

This year was a time of significant change in the senior leadership of Legal Aid NSW with the midyear retirement of both the CEO and Deputy CEO.

The year also saw some structural change with the creation of a new Client Service Unit, a restructured Community Legal Education Branch and a new unit to drive the development of a new client and case management system. Despite the challenges this posed, significant work was undertaken and the majority of actions in our plan for the year (see below) were achieved. These are some of our highlights.

OBJECTIVE Access to justice

Trauma-informed services support families better

We launched a service that helps families affected by family violence with needs extending well past the courtroom. For the first time, families are assisted to negotiate their journey between both federal and state systems. See New approach to keep  children and families safer.

Women's Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services supported 43,006 clients impacted by domestic violence. See More support for those impacted by domestic and family violence.

Safer Pathway —a locally coordinated response to domestic and family violence—was rolled out to 21 more locations. See Protection for victims strategy. The Legal Aid NSW Domestic Violence Unit trained over 850 frontline service staff in working with clients who are experiencing domestic and family violence. See Frontline staff skilled up.

OBJECTIVE Excellence in legal services

We set about transforming how we deliver services to our clients

A customer service team began work on the first stage of the Client Service Strategy 2016-2020 including conducting a client satisfaction survey. See New approach-surveying casework clients.

OBJECTIVE Supporting our people

A review acknowledged the complex role played by legal administrative staff

As well as supporting lawyers, the review showed that our legal support officers seek to provide an outstanding level of customer service to our clients, often under very difficult circumstances.

The review was commissioned in an environment where people are often expected to do more work with the same or fewer resources and where the technology is changing constantly. Recommendations will be implemented next year. See Review acknowledges the complex role.

OBJECTIVE Strong partnerships

We exceeded a key Commonwealth performance benchmark

The National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services 2015-2020 requires us to provide 95 per cent of our representation services to people experiencing financial disadvantage. We exceeded this with a rate of 98.9 per cent. See Selected NPA performance.

The Commonwealth amended the Agreement to provide for additional, defined funding to Community Legal Centres for family law services and family violence related services from 2017–2018. This reinstated funding that was due to be cut from the New South Wales Community Legal Centres Program. See New funding will assist.

The achievements were guided by our Legal Aid NSW Plan 2016–2017. The section below shows a more detailed overview of our achievements. We also developed a new plan for 2017–2018.

Financial summary

Our net financial result was a surplus of $1.4 million.

  2015–2016 ($M) 2016–2017 ($M) Change %
Operating revenue 273.2 307.8 13%
Operating expenses 283.4 306.4 8%
Total assets 98.9 83.5 (15%)
Total liabilities 106.0 32.0 (69%)
Surplus / (deficit) (10.2) 1.4 113%
Net equity (7.1) 51.5 825%

Achievements against the Legal Aid NSW Plan 2016–2017

We achieved the majority of actions in our plan for the year. The section above highlights examples of work we did particularly well.

Access to justice

OBJECTIVE To promote access to justice through early intervention and better targeting of legal assistance to disadvantaged people

* Some aspects of this project were unable to be completed including co-location in Broken Hill with the Aboriginal Legal Service, and recruitment of private lawyers for legal aid work in Mildura. Other aspects of this project have been carried forward in the Legal Aid NSW Plan for 2017–2018.

Year ahead

  • Implement the NSW Government’s criminal justice reforms
  • Provide integrated duty lawyer and family violence support services in designated family law courts
  • Implement domestic and family violence reforms and initiatives
  • Develop an elder abuse strategy

Excellence in legal services

OBJECTIVE To pursue excellence, innovation and efficiency in legal service delivery

Year ahead

  • Implement:
    • recommendations of the criminal appeals review
    • the next stage of the Client Service Strategy 2016-2020
    • initiatives that promote diversity and inclusiveness
    • a monitoring and evaluation model to demonstrate the effectiveness of Legal Aid NSW services

Supporting our people

OBJECTIVE To support and develop our people and improve our systems to meet organisational goals

** This project was delayed due to later than expected approval of project funds. Implementation is in the Legal Aid NSW Plan 2017–2018.

Year ahead

  • Implement:
    • a new client and case management system
    • a program of work responding to the Administrative Support Review
  • Roll out resources and training for staff providing services to people living with mental illness
  • Introduce new wellbeing initiatives to support our staff
  • Develop staff management and leadership capabilities

Strong partnerships

OBJECTIVE To build strong, effective service partnerships to respond to the legal and non-legal needs of our clients

Year ahead

  • Establish a model of integrated service delivery with non-legal service providers
  • Develop a new approach to legal services for newly arrived refugees
  • Implement the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services 2015-2020
  • Develop a framework for a coordinated state-wide approach to supporting private lawyers