Go to content

Annual Report 2018 - 2019

What we did over the past year

This year was the first under our five-year strategic plan. The Legal Aid NSW Strategic Plan 2018–2023 clearly sets our direction and policies, how we will target our resources in the face of growing demand for our services, and how we will develop and support our staff. See Overview.

These are some of the ways we progressed initiatives arising under the plan.

OBJECTIVE: Meeting clients' needs

Streamlining pathways to and between our services

We launched Streamlining Legal Pathways, a joint initiative with LawAccess NSW. Streamlining Legal Pathways seeks to simplify and improve the way that people in NSW get legal help by creating an integrated entry point to the legal assistance sector, with a single telephone number and digital platform, and supported by proper triaging processes. We also developed a high-level service model to ensure our services to clients are consistent and appropriately targeted. See Laying the groundwork.

Helping our clients engage with us

We developed an online Grants Tracker to allow clients to track the status of their grant applications. The Grants Tracker tracks a client’s application from the time the application is submitted to when a decision is first made. Our aim is to improve our clients’ experience of the grant application process and reduce client uncertainty. See Digital tools.

Increasing access to justice for Aboriginal people

We worked to increase access to justice for Aboriginal people through the development of our Aboriginal Client Services Strategy 2019–2023. See Increasing access.

In 2018–19, 15.7 percent of all case and in-house duty services were delivered to Aboriginal people, up from 14.2 percent the previous year. Almost half the extended legal assistance services we approved in 2018–19 were delivered to Aboriginal clients. See Aboriginal clients.

OBJECTIVE: Strong partnerships

A leader in legal professional development

We delivered training across the sector ahead of significant sentencing and parole reforms that came into effect in September 2018. Partners who participated in our training sessions included the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT), the Law Society of NSW, the Public Defenders Office, the NSW Bar Association, the NSW Police Force, and the NSW Department of Justice. See Training the criminal justice sector.

Supporting private lawyers to deliver quality legal aid services

We completed a review into the fees paid to private lawyers representing legally aided clients and prepared a business case in which we advocated for additional funding to increase the fees we pay. We also reviewed the way we appoint, monitor and remove private lawyers from our panels, with a focus on quality assurance. See Improving our engagement with private lawyers.

Providing wrap-around assistance for victims of domestic and family violence

We played a key role in finalising the rollout of Safer Pathway, an initiative to reduce domestic and family violence and provide support to victims. There are now 48 Safer Pathway sites across NSW. We administered the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Program, supporting 29 Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services to deliver services to 47,902 women. See WDVCAP.

OBJECTIVE: A fairer justice system

Giving our clients a voice in law and policy reform

We developed an agenda for strategic law and policy reform to guide our advocacy and improve the legal and justice systems in NSW. This year our strategic advocacy helped create statewide reforms aimed at improving local government responses to unpaid rates owed by people experiencing financial hardship. Our advocacy also led to national law reform to provide a remedy for vulnerable students who were inappropriately enrolled by a vocational education and training provider. See A remedy for students targeted by private training.

We produced a report in collaboration with Cancer Council NSW and Cancer Voices NSW, which found that two thirds of people with health conditions who participated in our research had experienced difficulties obtaining insurance. Our report also found that people with health conditions were frequently unaware of their legal rights in relation to insurance claims. See A call to action on unfair insurance hurdles.

Easing delays in the state’s busiest courts

We received additional funding as part of NSW Government measures to clear the NSW District Court backlog, which we used to increase the number of staff at locations where additional District Court sittings were expected to take place. We also continued to refine our own processes following the introduction of the early appropriate guilty pleas reform in 2018, which included significant procedural changes for serious criminal cases in NSW. See Additional staff to help ease District Court delays.

Participating in the banking royal commission

We supported clients giving evidence before the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, and a Legal Aid NSW lawyer gave expert evidence at a hearing on lending and other financial issues related to small businesses. See Shining a light.

OBJECTIVE: A highly capable workforce

Supporting our staff to provide quality services

We invested in the long-term wellbeing and safety of our staff through the launch of our Being Well initiative, which focuses on flexible working arrangements, supporting latecareer employees, and shaping a physically and mentally healthier workforce and a physically safe work environment. See Programs aim to keep staff healthy and safe.

We made changes to increase consistency, transparency and fairness in recruitment, guided by staff responses in the People Matter Employee Survey 2018, a major survey of government employees. We returned an overall employee engagement score of 75 percent in the survey, which is considerably higher than the public sector-wide score of 65 percent and an improvement on our result the previous year. See People Matter Employee Survey.

OBJECTIVE: Responsive business processes

Using information technology to deliver legal services more effectively

We implemented the first phase of our Client and Case Management System (CCMS) rollout, making it the single source of truth for all client information. The CCMS is a modern, client-centred platform developed to replace our existing case management system. See Client & Case Management System.

We also transitioned to a new cloud-based payroll and human resources system that automates many human resources processes and allows more streamlined processes for on-boarding and managing staff. See More efficient human resources processes.

Financial summary

Our net financial result was a deficit of $25.6 million.

  2017–18 ($m) 2018–19 ($m) Change %
Operating revenue 319.7 349.3 9.2%
Operating expenses 318.9 374.5 17.4%
Total assets 87.3 69.3 (20.6%)
Total liabilities 35.5 43.2 21.7%
Surplus (deficit) 0.3 (25.6) (8,633%)
Net equity 51.8 26.2 (49.4%)

Achievements against the Legal Aid NSW Strategic Plan 2018–2019

Our Legal Aid NSW Strategic Plan 2018–2019 (Year One Plan) set out the work that we planned to deliver in the first 12 months of the Legal Aid NSW Strategic Plan 2018–2023. We achieved most actions arising under the Year One Plan. The above sections highlight examples of work we did particularly well.

High-quality, targeted services that meet our clients’ needs

OBJECTIVE: Meeting clients' needs

  • We developed a high-level, end-to-end service model to ensure our services are consistent and appropriately targeted.
  • We worked to determine who our priority client groups should be.
  • We designed a plan for client pathways, a client triage model and an advice framework.
  • We developed our Aboriginal Client Services Strategy 2019–2023 to increase access to justice.
  • We reviewed and amended our contributions policy.
  • We designed a resource allocation model to help us assess demand for criminal law services and allocate our resources accordingly.
  • We evaluated specialist services to learn more about what approaches work best for vulnerable clients.
  • We laid the foundations for a framework to support and promote the delivery of quality legal aid services by private lawyers.
  • We conducted a review of fees paid to private lawyers acting in legally aided matters.

Partnerships that deliver the best possible outcomes for our clients

OBJECTIVE: Strong partnerships

  • We worked with our legal assistance sector partners to develop an agreed framework for collaborative service-planning.
  • We developed a Strategic Partnerships Framework and formalised inter-agency partnerships.

Our work improves the legal and justice systems

OBJECTIVE: A fairer justice system

  • We implemented a strategic law reform agenda and identified advocacy initiatives we will pursue in the year to come.
  • We communicated the value of the work we do, including by requesting that the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research examine the efficiency of in-house and private lawyers acting in legally aided matters, in what was the first-ever Australian comparison of private versus public lawyers in finalising these cases.

A highly capable workforce that is flexible, developed and equipped

OBJECTIVE: A highly capable workforce

  • We implemented a wellbeing program to improve the physical and mental health and safety of our staff.
  • We designed and implemented streamlined recruitment practices.
  • We implemented recommendations from a detailed review of administrative functions across our organisation.

Business processes that are responsive to our business needs

OBJECTIVE: Responsive business processes

  • We implemented a new structure for information communications technology.
  • We developed key performance indicators and a monitoring framework to guide managers and their staff, and implemented quarterly performance reviews.
  • We developed and implemented a feedback framework to collect, analyse and respond to feedback from staff about their experience with corporate services.
  • We implemented priority recommendations from a review of grants efficiency.
  • We completed the initial implementation of our Client and Case Management System.