New early intervention pilot part of widespread changes to child protection legal help in Victoria

New early intervention pilot part of widespread changes to child protection legal help in Victoria

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

A new early intervention unit to help children and families earlier with child protection

We have today announced that we will pilot a new way of providing help earlier to children and families who are caught up in the child protection system.

The first-time trial of an early intervention unit is one of 36 actions aimed at Victorian children, young people, parents and carers benefiting from legal help that is more effective, high quality and as widely available as possible.

The actions follow an extensive review of child protection legal services and consultation with others who work in child protection, and with young people, parents and carers.

Executive Director Family, Youth and Children’s Law Nicole Rich said, ‘Young people and parents told us that they want greater levels of legal and non-legal support before, during and after the court process. They want more help understanding the system and accessing the supports they need to keep children safe.

‘The unit will be made up of non-legal advocates who will support families to deal with matters before they need to go to court,’ Ms Rich said.

Ms Rich said that around one-third of child protection cases that go to court involve concerns that do not require the child to be immediately removed from the home.

‘Concerns around general hygiene and parenting skills, for example, could be dealt with effectively and much earlier, without going to court where the environment is pressured,’ she said.

‘Lawyers will continue to play an important role in advancing the best interests of children. They ensure that children, young people, parents and others affected by the system understand what is happening, are supported to have a say in what happens to them, and are treated fairly and according to the law.’ 

The early intervention unit will be established within Victoria Legal Aid and is expected to commence in 2018.

The need to do things differently will also see us work with others in child protection to:

  • pilot a health justice partnership so that pregnant women who are at risk of having their child removed from them shortly after birth get early legal advice and representation
  • provide more support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families. This includes new funding for legal help so that siblings and parents of an Aboriginal child placed in out-of-home care can maintain contact with that child, and more funding for the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and the Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service  
  • boost support in regional Victoria by establishing regional child protection networks, looking to increase the number of private, community legal centre and staff lawyers doing child protection work in regional areas, and improving the way cases are allocated to lawyers
  • develop plain-language information about the child protection system and legal rights and responsibilities for different groups, including young people, parents and carers
  • produce clear best practice guidelines on legally representing children and young people.

Read the final report

Download the Child Protection Legal Aid Services Review final report (docx, 7.95 MB)

You can also find out more at:

How we can help 

Find out more about child protection and how you can get help.