Funding services to respond to COVID-19

Funding services to respond to COVID-19

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the way we deliver legal assistance, what legal need looks like across Victoria and also exacerbated many legal issues people were already facing. Victoria Legal Aid will receive $7.9m from the state and Commonwealth governments to respond to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This follows the announcement of additional funding for frontline legal services in June and is a timely response to help us continue delivering safe access to legal assistance.  

Our current working environment involves all the complexities of the pandemic, which continues to evolve as the situation remains dynamic. In the face of these challenges, we have allocated the additional funding to three key areas:           

Addressing service impacts

A significant amount of funding will be allocated to service delivery impacts that are new or intensified by the pandemic. These include meeting the increased demand for Family Dispute Resolution Services, changes to services for Family Violence Intervention Orders, funding Emergency Case Management for matters at the County Court, funding for ‘Readiness Hearings’ at the Children’s Court to address the backlog of child protection matters and additional resourcing for our frontline Legal Help phone service.

A number of the initiatives will support our regional service delivery, including for family violence and referral pathway support. We’re also responding to the changing legal need with the direct support for the Bendigo/Ballarat region through an additional civil lawyer and adding another regional Aboriginal community engagement officer to that important program.

Supporting working from home

Providing enhanced IT capability will help support staff to work remotely at this time as will the continuation of the working from home allowance. These measures will help us meet the government’s heath response directive to work from home and keep our staff and the community safe.

Ensuring safety

Creating a safe working environment is important for those people who need to attend the office or deliver face-to-face services, but we’re also upgrading our processes to support remote working. Digitising documents and mail will help limit the number of people who need to attend the office and will be complemented by increased cleaning to make office environments safer. We’re also funding essential support programs such as our Employee Assistance Program and personal protective equipment including masks.

These priority areas were based on a considered analysis of our current service demand data and predictions for our immediate future. Continuing to provide essential legal services whilst maintaining safety remains our focus.

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