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Work and development order service

Are some of your clients struggling to pay off fines?

Unpaid fines can really hurt. They can result in increasing debt, loss of driver licence and car registration, a portion of wages being taken by the State Debt Recovery Office (SDRO) or property being taken by the Sheriff.

For people who are unable to pay, fines debt can also impact on their health and wellbeing, their relationships and their ability to find employment. It can even lead to further offending and prison.

Now there is a simple and practical way to support people to be free of their unpaid fines and the negative consequences that go with them.

What is a Work and Development Order (WDO)?

WDOs allow people to clear their fines through unpaid work, courses or treatment. WDOs are made by the SDRO. A person can only get a WDO if their application is supported by an “approved organisation” or an “approved registered health practitioner”.

As soon as a WDO is approved all enforcement action stops and licence sanctions are lifted.

Who is eligible for a WDO?

The WDO scheme is available to anyone who is having trouble paying off their fines because they are homeless, have a mental illness, intellectual disability or cognitive impairment, serious addiction to drugs, alcohol or volatile substances or because they are experiencing acute economic hardship.

“The ability for clients to undertake activities to work towards satisfying their debt is motivating…It’s a double win for the client. They get to work off their debt without being further financially compromised and they are more receptive to valuable interventions to address their significant barriers.”
WDO provider

What sort of activities can be undertaken by WDO participants?

The scheme is very broad and many different activities can be undertaken as part of a WDO. They include:

  • Unpaid voluntary work
  • Medical or mental health treatment
  • Educational, vocational or life skills courses
  • Counselling and therapy
  • Financial counselling
  • Drug and alcohol treatment
  • Mentoring programs (if under 25)
  • Case management
  • Any combination of these activities

Fines are worked off at different rates depending on the activity. For example, unpaid work reduces the debt by $30 for every hour worked. A medical or mental health treatment plan, or drug and alcohol treatment, will reduce the debt by up to $1000 a month, as long as the client complies with the plan.

How can our organisation get involved?

The best thing your organisation can do to help clients with fines debt is to become an approved organisation or approved registered health practitioner. So that more clients benefit from the scheme your organisation can apply for approval on behalf of all the services within your organisation.

You may in fact already be providing services and activities that would satisfy the WDO criteria. Or you may be case managing clients who are undertaking eligible activities with other service providers.

Signing up is a quick and simple process. Reporting and record keeping requirements are minimal and straightforward.

If you want to become an approved WDO provider contact the NSW Department of Attorney General and Justice on (02) 8688 8099 or email wdo@agd.nsw.gov.au for an application form.

“This is my chance to be a cleanskin. It all balances on the WDO. It means my life.”
WDO participant

What do approved organisations have to do?

Here’s what approved organisations need to do if they are supporting a WDO client:

Step 1:
Assess whether the client seems eligible for the WDO scheme

Step 2:
Develop an activity or treatment plan with the client

Step 3:
Contact the WDO Hotline on 1300 478 879 to validate the client’s details and receive an enforcement number to be entered into the SDRO online portal

Step 4:
Provide and/or supervise activities or treatment undertaken by the client

Step 5:
Keep records required by the SDRO e.g. documents that support your client’s eligibility, a copy of their WDO application and details of their compliance with the WDO activity

Step 6:
Complete a monthly report on the client’s progress via the SDRO’s online portal

What if my client can’t or isn’t eligible to do a WDO?

Unless your client contacts the SDRO and makes alternative arrangements to resolve their fines debt, further enforcement action is highly likely. You should contact SDRO to discuss the options available for your client.

Want more information?

Legal Aid NSW WDO Service
Legal Aid NSW offers information sessions to organisations interested in becoming approved WDO providers.
General enquiries: wdo@legalaid.nsw.gov.au

Or contact:
Meredith Osborne
WDO Coordinator (02) 9219 6327

Free legal advice on fines is available at your nearest Legal Aid NSW office.

State Debt Recovery Office
WDO Hotline 1300 478 879 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm)


This information is intended as a general guide to the law. It should not be relied on as legal advice and it is recommended that you talk to a lawyer about your particular situation.

At the time of updating, the information shown is correct but may be subject to change. If you need more help, contact LawAccess on 1300 888 529.

A print copy of this brochure may be ordered online.

Oct 2013