Case plan meetings

Case plan meetings

Proposal

This proposal provided for a new grant of legal assistance for a child or parent to receive legal advice and representation for post-court Department of Health and Human Services case plan meetings.

This would fund the continuation of legal representation currently provided at court to ensure that the case plan includes the necessary conditions to support reunification, where this objective is confirmed by the court order.

The consultation paper also presented an alternative proposal. The alternative would introduce an additional fee, claimable under the existing child protection grant, to fund the lawyer to obtain the minutes of the post-court case plan meeting and provide advice to their client where the case plan is non-compliant with the final court order.

Stakeholder feedback

Some form of ongoing legal representation post-court at the case planning meeting was seen by stakeholders as important in light of the legislative amendments that place a two year time frame on the possibility of a court order aiming for reunification.

Stakeholders who were supportive of legal assistance in the case plan process agreed that it was not appropriate that time in out-of-home care continue to accumulate whilst a case plan does not contemplate appropriate supports to give a family the best chance of reunification.

The consultation paper did not propose a guideline to fund a lawyer’s attendance at a pre-court case plan meeting. We recognised the importance of assistance to children and parents for pre-court case plan meetings, but proposed no new funding guideline at this stage given the significant shift in practice this would entail.

The variety of feedback highlighted that success of legal assistance in the pre-court process and at case plan meetings would be contingent on complex and thorough planning and preparation before introducing a guideline to fund this work.

Action – no new guideline

We share the view of stakeholders that the legislative amendments emphasise the need to consider funding legal advice and representation for pre-court case plan meetings in addition to post-court case plan meetings.

However, as noted in the consultation paper and in feedback from stakeholders, funding legal advice and representation for case plan meetings (both pre- and post-court) would entail a significant shift in current practice and present challenges that require a well-considered and collaborative approach with stakeholders.

At this stage, therefore, we do not propose introducing a guideline for attendance at case plan meetings.

Nor do we recommend the alternative proposal to fund the lawyer to obtain the minutes of the post-court case plan meeting and provide advice to their client.

Next steps

We are of the view that this should be a priority issue for the Child Protection Review and any proposal should be considered in the context of a more detailed analysis of the role of legal aid services in early intervention and the most effective and constructive way of supporting families outside of the court process.

We also intend to begin work in 2016 on the development of a possible pilot for testing a model of legal service delivery in the case plan process.

More information

Read about the other proposals: