Responding to a challenging year – our 2020–21 Annual Report

Responding to a challenging year – our 2020–21 Annual Report

Thursday, 18 November 2021
Graphic with text: Annual Report 2020–21 access to justice for Victorians
Our 2020–21 Annual Report

Our 2020–21 Annual Report, tabled in the Victorian Parliament today, shows how we have worked as part of the legal assistance sector to respond to changing needs of our clients due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Chief Executive Officer Louise Glanville says the pandemic has changed the way we provide services, paving the way for long-term service innovations and better outcomes for our clients.

‘The challenges faced by our clients and the community over the past 18 months required a responsive and adaptable approach from the legal assistance sector,’ Ms Glanville said.

‘The introduction of pre-court services such as Help Before Court and the Early Resolution Service for family violence matters exemplifies this work and the benefits that can be brought to clients by working with our colleagues in legal assistance sector.’

While face-to-face services were limited due to the pandemic, our Legal Help phone and web chat service remained a critical entry and triage point to the Victorian legal assistance sector.

There were 41,267 webchat services, an increase of 54 per cent on 2019–20, and of those services, 89 per cent (or 46,211) were answered.

Tenancy, family violence and parenting arrangements were among the top matters Victorians sought assistance for from Legal Help.

‘The establishment of priority family violence and tenancy lines allowed us to help people experiencing those issues more quickly,’ Ms Glanville said.

Ms Glanville says clients are at the forefront of what we do and it’s important that we build on the advancements we have made over the last 12 months to ensure we provide services that are tailored to, and are suitable for, our clients.

‘In carrying out our core functions and hearing from our clients, we have seen the interplay between socio-economic and legal issues in people’s lives and responded by making family violence, child protection and mental health legal services key priorities.

‘This year, across our program areas, our staff and community legal centres worked together to take a client-centred approach, preparing information about changes to laws, how to contact us, and how we work with courts, tribunals and other services.

‘Involving people with lived experience in our work directly is relatively new for our sector, but extremely rewarding, as it delivers better outcomes.’

Our regional offices play a vital role in servicing the community and we are committed to improving our services in outer-metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria.

‘This year we appointed two new Aboriginal community engagement officers (ACE officers) in regional offices – Geelong and Ballarat – we also expanded our non-legal advocacy service, Independent Family Advocacy and Support (IFAS) to Ballarat,’ Ms Glanville said.

We ended the financial year with a net surplus of $24.9 million, primarily due to the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions on court processes. Reduced court capacity led to a significant deferral of case and trial expenditure into future years. 

‘We anticipate case expenditure to significantly increase in from 2021–22 as court services resume, beyond the level of our base funding,’ Ms Glanville said.

‘While the 2020–21 State Budget provided one-off funding to address the backlog of cases and resources in a range of other areas, we will continue to work with the government to determine sustainable funding solutions to meet ongoing demand pressures.

‘As we continue to grapple with the challenges of the pandemic and look towards a future recovery, ongoing investment in legal aid is essential to maintain a social safety net that can catch people when they need it.’

Read the report

Read our Annual Report 2020–21 (pdf, 4.99 MB) or the accessible Word version (850.94 KB).

Media enquiries

If you have a media enquiry, please contact Senior Communications Advisor Sally Johnston on (03) 9269 0604 or 0427 607 854.

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