Streamlinefines – a new way of dealing with infringements

Streamlinefines – a new way of dealing with infringements

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

The legal assistance sector in Victoria has long advocated for better ways to deal with infringements. Now a collaboration between Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) and community legal centres (CLCs) will see a new approach brought to fine revocation in Victoria.

Streamlinefines combines technology, health justice partnerships (HJPs) and bulk processing of similar matters, to address the ever increasing number and complexity of special circumstances fines matters being handled by VLA and community legal centres. The project will both develop a digital tool to make gathering supporting documentation for revocations more effective and efficient, and work strategically with Fines Victoria and key issuers to help make the revocation process more responsive to vulnerable clients.

Streamlinefines has a long history. The prototype won an innovation award as part of RMIT’s Fasttrack program in 2015 and our partners WEstJustice, Moonee Valley Legal Service and Peninsula CLC have been working on elements of the model since then. Last year a project proposal was developed and successfully received a significant grant from the Victorian Government's Public Sector Innovation Fund for a one year trial.

Working with the health sector to increase access to justice

By locating the project in a range of HJP settings, including hospitals, community health and mental health, Streamlinefines aims to address the social determinants of health and increase access to justice for people experiencing disadvantage.

‘Streamlinefines has the capacity to change the way we think about health justice partnerships,’ said Brendan Lacota, Principal Lawyer at Moonee Valley Legal Service. ‘Leveraging technology and bulk processing of like matters to quickly and efficiently address the legal needs of highly vulnerable people while they are receiving treatment for their underlying health problems.’

The CEO of Peninsula Community Legal Centre Jackie Galloway said the project will build on already existing relationships. ‘The project will enhance the Centre’s work with the health sector to strengthen the response for vulnerable members of the South East struggling to navigate the complex infringement system.’

Creative agency Paper Giant, who developed the FineFixer website, has been secured to develop a Streamlinefines digital tool and process that can be used across a broad range of HJP settings. Paper Giant already have strong relationships with the legal assistance and community health sectors in Victoria and extensive knowledge of the infringements system, including the recent fines reforms.

Work began last week with the kick-off meeting, to establish clear shared project goals, approach, understanding of risks and measures of success. This week Paper Giant are visiting the health and community legal partner sites and talking to nurses, social workers, lawyers and financial counsellors to find out more about the reality of the revocation process from the ground up.

Fines unfairly affect disadvantaged Victorians

Last year over 5 million fines were issued in Victoria. Of those, only 26,000 were revoked on the grounds of special circumstances such as mental illness, intellectual disability, drug addiction, or homelessness. Fines are one of the top three matters dealt with by VLA, yet we and our partners in CLCs know that there are many more vulnerable people dealing with crippling fine debt and multiple forms of disadvantage who are not receiving legal assistance.

‘The Special Circumstances List at the Magistrate’s Court recognises that some very vulnerable people should be treated differently for unpaid fines,' said CEO of WEstjustice Denis Nelthorpe. 'This project will assist the Court to identify those clients deserving special treatment due to homelessness, alcohol & drug dependency or mental health problems.’

‘We know that infringements are a huge problem for some of the most disadvantaged people in our community,’ said Joel Townsend, Program Manager, Economic and Social Rights at VLA. ‘We also know that we need to find smarter ways to address legal need. It’s great to be involved in a project which aims to use innovation to better help these clients.’

Development work on the tool will begin in earnest in April, with a refined prototype to be launched at the end of June.

More Information

For more information about Streamlinefines please contact Project Manager Marie Baird on (03) 9269 0109 or email marie.baird@vla.vic.gov.au

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