Midyear report – demand pressures expected to continue

Midyear report – demand pressures expected to continue

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

2017–18 midyear report banner

Like many parts of the justice system, Victoria Legal Aid is facing an ever-increasing demand for services.

The 2017–18 midyear report shows we helped 53,752 unique clients (an increase of four per cent) in the first six months this financial year and delivered more services to the Victorian community.

Managing Director, Bevan Warner, says the report highlights that we are continuing to assist more urgent, complex matters.

‘Because courts are more congested and more people are facing tougher laws, involving more serious consequences, we are providing more intensive assistance to those people we do help,’ he said.

‘The need to help clients with these matters at court is preventing people from getting early access to our less intensive, but nonetheless important, face-to-face legal advice and minor assistance services.’

We expect to end the year with five per cent increase in grants of legal assistance, a seven per cent increase in duty lawyer services and a six per cent increase in calls to our Legal Help telephone service.

However, Bevan says the trend growth is much higher.

‘Growth in summary crime grants of legal assistance and duty lawyer services in the seven years from 2014 to 2021 is forecast to be 95 per cent and 75 per cent respectively,’ he said.

‘This growth is expected to rise further with the impact of the additional police and we know the bail reform legislation, expected to come into effect in the coming months, will also have a significant impact on the number of grants delivered.’

Our financial future is uncertain. As Bevan explains, we have limited control over what drives demand for our services and the number of people needing our help has been growing faster than our core funding.

‘We are using our cash reserves to preserve existing eligibility guidelines but this can’t go on forever. Although it is a responsible use of funds now, more investment is needed to better balance what are unprecedented pressures on the criminal justice system; courts and legal aid, brought about by the Victorian Government’s community safety initiatives,’ he said.

‘We know however, funding is only part of the solution. We are continuing to speak with Victoria Police and the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria, to improve practices and to reduce congestion so that the justice system can deliver better justice every day for all Victorians.’

Download the 2017–18 midyear report

To download our 2017–18 midyear report, see the Midyear reports page.