New collaborations trial a new approach for families with child protection problems

New collaborations trial a new approach for families with child protection problems

Monday, 15 June 2015

A new collaboration between Victoria Legal Aid and two community legal centres aims to achieve better outcomes for local families with child protection problems.

Under the two-year pilot announced this week, lawyers with Women’s Legal Service Victoria and Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre will for the first time help people in the Family Division of the Children’s Court in Bendigo and Moorabbin, and at the pilot Family Drug Treatment Court.

The community legal centre lawyers will provide eligible clients with advice, representation and referrals on the day they first come to court with a child protection legal problem, then continue to work with them on related ongoing casework.

Victoria Legal Aid Director Family, Youth and Children’s Law Nicole Rich said new funding would enable these community legal centres, which had great experience working with disadvantaged people, to increase the range of services they offer to local people to include child protection.

‘People often come to court with a range of related legal issues and the pilot recognises the long term benefits of assisting them at the earliest opportunity, not only with their immediate legal problems but also with other issues developing in the background,’ Ms Rich said.

‘Often a range of problems undermines a family’s ability to provide adequate care for their children, but the Department of Health and Human Services becoming involved can also be an opportune time for us to help a struggling family.

‘Coordinating the legal help we provide in relation to child protection matters with related issues like family law, Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal matters, family violence and youth crime matters will lead to better outcomes, and help steer young people away from ongoing problems with the law.’

Ms Rich said trying out new ways of delivering services to clients who are at their most vulnerable was important.

‘The removal of children from their parent is one of the most serious actions the state can take and while it is sometimes necessary, we also know that it does not necessarily lead to good outcomes for children, so helping families at the earliest stage of their contact with the child protection system is vital – at a point that is likely to help prevent further escalation of problems,’ she said.

Community legal centres welcome the pilot

Loddon Campaspse Community Legal Centre and Women's Legal Service Victoria welcomed the pilot.

'Our centre will focus on achieving greater continuity for clients between legal, social support and court services in the region,' said Executive Officer ARC Justice Peter Noble (ARC Justice manages Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre).

Women’s Legal Service Victoria Executive Officer Joanna Fletcher said: 'Our services will focus on improving continuity of legal assistance across child protection, family law and family violence jurisdictions.’ 

The pilot is funded through one-off money allocated to Victoria Legal Aid by the Commonwealth government. The new services will start being delivered in coming months, after an establishment period.

The new services will also operate:

  • on circuit at Kyneton, Castlemaine, Echuca, Kerang, Swan Hill and Maryborough with Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre
  • in the future at Broadmeadows Children's Court with Women’s Legal Service Victoria.

Lawyers from Victoria Legal Aid and private practice will continue to assist clients at court, ensuring that any conflict of interest in child protection matters is addressed.

How we can help

See Get help with child protection for information about how we can help with your child protection matter.

Doing legal aid work

See Child protection panel for information about how firms and individual practitioners can apply to undertake legally aided work in child protection.


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