Partnership with community legal centres delivers increased family law assistance for family violence victims

Partnership with community legal centres delivers increased family law assistance for family violence victims

Monday, 29 April 2019

A pilot program to better support people experiencing family law problems in the family violence legal system has successfully increased the availability of legally aided assistance. 

Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) provided a total of one million dollars over a two-year period to the Peninsula Community Legal Centre (PCLC) and the Hume Riverina Community Legal Service (Hume Riverina CLS) to provide family law help to people experiencing family violence.

The ‘Family violence to family law continuity of service delivery’ pilot program was a recommendation from VLA's 2015 Family Law Legal Aid Services Review, which recognised that state Magistrates’ Courts were often the first point of contact for many people experiencing family law issues.

‘The evaluation of this pilot program has found it has successfully developed a family law practice where one previously did not exist,’ Executive Director of Family, Youth and Children’s Law, Nicole Rich said.

‘An ongoing and high-quality community legal centre family law service has meant more clients in need are getting earlier help to address and resolve their family law issues, often without the need for litigation.’

From January 2017 to June 2018, PCLC provided ongoing family law assistance through 234 grants of aid to 62 clients, while Hume Riverina CLS assisted with ongoing representation through 189 grants of aid to 53 clients.

The evaluation shows family lawyers from both PCLC and Hume Riverina CLS were successful in assisting clients to resolve their family law issues at an early stage, and often before any family law court involvement was required.

The evaluation also found the community legal centre lawyers displayed a good understanding of family violence and family law issues. They were client focused and willing to schedule extra time to assist clients in significant distress.

‘This timely intervention helps to prevents problems from getting worse, including for vulnerable children, and reduces pressure on the court system,’ said Nicole.

‘The model demonstrates the effectiveness of using outreach locations like the family violence intervention order list at the Magistrates’ Court to find clients who are not yet aware that they would benefit from family law help.’

CEO of PCLC, Jackie Galloway said, ‘PCLC is proud of the achievements of the pilot – it has delivered great outcomes and increased access to family law services for vulnerable clients in the south east of Melbourne.

‘The pilot has provided a great opportunity for our staff to develop their competencies in family law. The opportunity to run matters provides increased variety and diversity in the roles CLC lawyers can play, which positively supports retention of our staff.’

In addition to ongoing legal representation, PCLC provided 467 family law advice sessions, while Hume Riverina CLS provided 571 advice sessions.

The evaluation found that while PCLC successfully created a new, ongoing family law litigation practice, the pilot model was not a good fit for the existing service providers in the Hume Riverina region in the north east of the state.

VLA is committed to investigating alternative solutions to support community legal centre and private practitioner lawyers doing legally aided family law work in the Hume Riverina region to ensure the community’s family law legal needs are met.

We have continued to fund PCLC to deliver family law services this year.

More information

Read our Evaluation summary: family violence to family law continuity of service delivery pilot (pdf, 65.88 KB)

Contact Samantha Watson, Manager, Family Law Review at Samantha.Watson@vla.vic.gov.au for the full evaluation report.

Read more about our Family Law Legal Aid Services Review.

 

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