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Annual Report 2020 - 2021

Highlights this year: how we made a difference to clients and communities

In the face of increasing demand for our services, we have fundamentally reshaped the way we work to put our clients at the centre of everything we do and improve the quality of services we provide.

Over the past few years, we have redesigned our service model to respond to the needs and feedback of our clients. This means that our services are more targeted and specialised to reach the people who need us most.

Consistent and targeted triage

Consistent triage of people on entry to Legal Aid NSW is a critical part of our service model. Triage means that clients with high-impact legal problems or from priority client groups get access to our advice services quickly, while people who have capacity to self-help are directed to legal information and targeted referrals.

This year the triage model was implemented across LawAccess NSW and all our offices across NSW.

The model consistently matches a client to the appropriate level of service they need. After someone has been triaged as eligible for advice, LawAccess NSW refers clients to the right office or unit to be booked into an advice appointment.

The triage framework also enables more individualised and intensive support. For example, culturally and linguistically diverse clients requiring an interpreter may be booked for longer appointments and provided with targeted assistance.

Integration with LawAccess NSW

LawAccess NSW officially transitioned into Legal Aid NSW in July 2020. Integration of technology, systems, and operational processes is ongoing.

The transition provides the opportunity to elevate LawAccess NSW as the entry point for people needing legal help in NSW by phone and online.

Performance highlights for LawAccess NSW in 2020–2021 include:

  • assisting 149,782 customers
  • providing 13,998 sessions of telephone legal advice
  • over 1.7 million unique visitors to the LawAccess NSW website
  • over 11 percent of customers receiving advice were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people, and
  • over 51 percent of customers receiving advice were from regional areas.

Listening to our clients

We conduct a client satisfaction survey every two years to understand what our clients think of our service and how we can make it better.

This year we surveyed over 1,400 clients across advice and casework, provided by both in-house and private lawyers. Client responses were collected through online surveys and phone interviews.

What our clients said:

  • two thirds told us they were highly satisfied with our service
  • 76 percent of clients were overall satisfied with our service (80 percent of grants clients and 74 percent of advice clients)
  • 86 percent of clients who were helped by an in-house lawyer told us they were satisfied, and
  • 79 percent of clients who were helped by a private lawyer told us they were satisfied.

How we made a difference for our clients:

  • 65 percent told us they had a better understanding of their legal problem and situation
  • 59 percent told us they felt more confident dealing with their problem, and
  • 49 percent felt safer or more secure as a result of the legal assistance they received.

Continued improvements to our appointment booking system

Our online Client Appointment Booking System continued to provide a consistent process for staff to manage advice clinic bookings across our offices. For the first time we can view available advice appointments and wait times across the state, and use standard SMS messaging to remind clients of their appointments.

Enhancements to the system were implemented throughout the year. In 2021–2022, we will review how we can build
booking system functionality into our Client and Case Management System (CCMS) to further streamline the booking process.

A new phone line for prisoners

We improved access for prisoners to obtain legal help by introducing a new prisoners’ phone line.

Legal Aid NSW and LawAccess NSW previously received approximately 300 calls from inmates each day. We combined these two prisoner phone lines into one main line and trained staff to answer and deal with these enquiries rather than transferring calls.

We will continue to build on this work by designing an improved end-to-end service model for prisoners.

Webchat now available

Webchat went live on 16 April 2021 via the LawAccess NSW website and has proved popular. It provides online help from information officers in real time. The channel is ideal for customers who have low-complexity legal issues, adequate digital literacy levels, and an ability to self-help.

As at 30 June 2021, over 3,000 customers were assisted via this new service channel. They were provided with information or referral to a solicitor or another service.

Connecting clients to non-legal help

Our clients have complex lives and often have multiple legal and non-legal problems. We developed a referral framework to enable us to consistently link clients to non-legal services. The framework provides guidance and tips for staff on how to make non-legal referrals. We have also developed resources to help staff build their knowledge of non-legal services.

Website transformation

We have commenced our plan to combine the current LawAccess NSW and Legal Aid NSW websites into a single, public-facing website that better caters to the needs of all our clients and partners.

We engaged Deloitte to develop a website concept design, with a focus on delivering a better digital experience. Clients and staff provided positive feedback on the designs. This work will continue in 2021–2022.

General advice model

Our clients frequently have multiple legal issues and want help from a lawyer on the spot. The general advice model means that our clients can get all the help they need without having to speak to multiple lawyers from different areas of law.

We developed training, guidelines, and other resources to support the lawyers using this model. Each team using this model will also have access to senior staff from other practice areas who can provide subject-matter advice, guidance, and referrals.

Grants Tracker

We launched an improved Grants Tracker in August 2020 that updates clients about a range of legal aid grant-related events. Clients are sent updates about the status of their application, transfer requests, appeals, requisitions, and terminations. Clients can also nominate third parties to receive updates on their behalf.

Grants Tracker usage has increased steadily since its launch, with 27.4 percent of all applications submitted in June 2021 subscribed to the service. This equates to a total of 14,947 applications where clients opted to use the Grants Tracker.

“This (Grants Tracker) is a great tool. I was a point of contact for a friend that was experiencing a medical problem and it made the process of applying for legal aid less daunting. Thank you. This service made a very difficult situation not as hard as it could have been.”

Streamlining the grants application process

Clients tell us that they find the grants application process overwhelming, confusing and inconsistent. The current process is also frustrating and inefficient for staff.

This year we researched and developed a future model to make it quicker and easier for our clients to apply for a grant of aid. We also trialled the use of simplified forms and processes. The feedback and outcomes of the trials were positive. We will implement the new processes next year.

Providing advice in the most suitable format

Outreach services continued to be provided by telephone due to COVID-19 restrictions. We progressively resumed face-to-face outreach services as restrictions eased.

Even though phone service will continue to be our primary channel for the provision of advice, we have also developed a structured process for the resumption of face-to-face outreach services that will allow clients to access legal advice services in person where and when it is appropriate.

Increasing access to justice for clients in regional NSW

The Regional Outreach Clinic Program (ROCP) continued to provide legal advice for people in regional areas in 2020–2021.
A new fortnightly clinic was established at the Lithgow Local Court, and we entered into a new partnership with the Cowra Information and Neighbourhood Centre for a weekly legal advice clinic that is jointly provided by private lawyers under the ROCP and in-house lawyers from the Legal Aid NSW Orange office.

Evaluating our health justice partnerships

This year we completed an evaluation of the health justice partnership outreach between Legal Aid NSW and We Help Ourselves (WHOs). The evaluation found that our investment in this partnership was appropriate, effective and efficient, and that time and place of service provision are key to successfully servicing the needs of these specific client communities.

Year ahead iconThe year ahead

  • We will make it easier to find legal help online with a new website.
  • We will make it easier for our clients to manage their legal matters with a new client portal.
  • We will improve prisoners’ access to legal help with a new service model.
  • We will make it easier and faster for eligible clients to receive a grant of aid.
  • We will implement guaranteed service standards for clients.