Report shows increase in disadvantaged Victorians needing our help

Report shows increase in disadvantaged Victorians needing our help

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

End year summary

Victoria Legal Aid continues to deliver more services, helping more Victorians, as our justice system gets busier.

As flagged in the midyear report, the end year summary highlights a dramatic increase in the number of socially and economically disadvantaged Victorians needing our help.

There was a 22 per cent increase in the number of clients who reported being homeless, a 19 per cent increase in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients and an eight per cent increase in the number of clients who reported having no income.

Managing Director Bevan Warner says our ability and capacity to help those most in need is at its peak because more people are needing the protection of the law.

‘Tougher laws, harsher consequences, more police, additional child protection workers and the prevalence and impact of drug use, particularly the drug ice, are all contributing to system congestion,’ Bevan said.

‘Our clients are presenting with more serious legal and non-legal issues, meaning they are more likely to receive our most intensive and costly form of service – a grant of aid.’

This year, there was a nine per cent increase in grants of legal assistance, coming off the back of an 11 per cent increase last year and a four per cent increase in 2014–15.

‘The steady increase can be attributed to the flow on effects of additional front-line police, child protection workers and changes in government policy.’

Similar to grants of legal assistance, duty lawyer services also experienced a significant increase in demand, up seven per cent, and up 30 per cent over three years.

In response to the external pressures and the higher demand across summary crime, family violence, child protection and indictable crime, our expenditure grew by $18.9 million as we finished the year with a comprehensive deficit of $10.9 million. This was not unexpected and the trend is expected to continue.

‘We spent more money and grew our services accordingly. We made a deliberate decision to not restrict services but to preserve eligibility guidelines while drawing on our cash reserves to do so,’ Bevan said.

‘While we continue to monitor service levels and expenditure, and are thankful for the additional investment announced by the Victorian Government throughout the year, we remain concerned about the current and growing demand on the justice system.’

‘We will continue to seek support for reform and investment, so we continue to deliver high quality and sustainable services, ensuring Victorians have access to better justice, every day.’

The 2016–17 end year summary shows Victoria Legal Aid assisted 90,649 unique clients, an increase of four per cent. This comes off a two per cent increase last year and a four per cent increase in 2014–15.

Download the 2016–17 end year summary

Download Victoria Legal Aid’s 2016–17 end year summary (pdf, 136.15 KB) or the accessible Word version (10, 167.62 KB).