Upcoming changes to community legal centre service agreements

Upcoming changes to community legal centre service agreements

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Work to implement actions from Phase One of the community legal service program (CLSP) reform project have begun in earnest.

In this first round of consultations, we are considering changes for introduction by 1 July 2019 that have been long asked for by community legal centres (CLCs) and will help streamline reporting under the CLSP program, and some that are relatively simple and easy to make and will lay the foundation for subsequent reform actions.

The changes are not new – they were discussed and developed in collaboration with CLCs as part of consultations in Phase One of the project. For a refresher on the actions developed in partnership between Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) and CLCs, see the updated Community Legal Services Reform Project page on our website. 

Share your thoughts

We want to hear what you think about these initial changes. Your feedback will help us to draft deeds of variation to the current service agreement.

Send any thoughts or comments about these changes in an email to clspreform@vla.vic.gov.au by Monday 13 May.

Schedule for change

We will have the varied service agreement ready to be rolled over for the 2019–20 financial year. This means that your current workplans can also be rolled over for another year, once you have reviewed them to ensure they still adequately address intended objectives for the coming year.  

Information and support from VLA’s CLC Funding and Development Program will be available immediately to help you modify practices and policies to accommodate the changes.

Implementation of the full suite of reform actions is scheduled for 1 July 2020 with the roll-out of a new service agreement, and the supporting reporting templates, policies and procedures. This will align with the launch of the new National Partnership Agreement (NPA), scheduled to take effect on the same date.

The changes

Once we get your feedback on the proposed changes, listed below, we will draft the new clauses and circulate them before they come into effect.

Access to data

We are proposing amendments to make it clear and transparent in the CLSP Service agreement that VLA can access and use service data provided by CLCs for purposes other than CLSP administration. For example, we want to ensure we can use service data for sector and program planning, including collaborative planning with CLCs to better understand legal need. Service data could also be used to help us develop tools that will be accessible to CLCs for use in their service planning. 

VLA is already technically able to use service data to inform sector planning under clause 12.1.4 of the agreement. We want to make this broader use transparent and clearer in the agreement.

Action: This is not related to a specific action but is the spirit of actions 16 and 17, relating to service data transparency.

Moving the date for workplans

This proposed minor change will move the scheduled date for the submission of workplans in 2019 from 1 May to 31 July, to align with the date for the submission of budgets. We think it makes sense for centres to develop workplans contemporaneously with budgets (including planning for the expenditure of excess surpluses) and at a time when they have certainty about funding allocations for the coming year.

Action: This is not related to a specific action but is the spirit of actions relating to building efficiencies in the administration of funding. See actions 6, 24, 27 & 45.

Accreditation will be a funding requirement

In line with other reform actions that promote quality service provision, we will make it a funding requirement that all CLSP funded centres have accreditation under the National Accreditation Scheme (NAS), just as membership of the Federation of CLCs requires accreditation.

Action: 8, and related actions 1, 9a, 20 & 26.

Changes to streamline financial reporting

We are introducing a number of changes to make financial reporting easier, including: 

  • Exploring alternative, simpler formats for the Annual Budget and Funds Report that don’t create more work for centre co-ordinators
  • Changing the date for Excess Surplus proposals so that a provisional Excess Surplus proposal is submitted by 31 July (in line with Budget and Workplan submission) with a final proposal submitted by 30 November.

For those of you with a particular interest in these changes, there will be an opportunity for more detailed discussion as part of consultations with the ‘financial changes’ working group in early May.

Action: 32, 28 & 29.

Client complaint processes

Having a visible client feedback and complaints process will be made a requirement for CLSP funding eligibility. Like the requirement for NAS accreditation, this action introduces a minimum, and achievable obligation which contributes to quality service provision and is already a requirement under the NAS. For those centres that don’t currently comply with this, the CLC Funding and Development team can provide targeted assistance.

Action: 34 & 18.

Service guidelines publicly available

It will become a requirement of funding that all CLSP funded centres make their service guidelines and eligibility criteria publicly available, and to keep this information up to date. This is already a requirement for accreditation under the NAS. Many centres already upload this information to their website.

Action: 19 & 21.

Affirming our commitment to the mixed-service model

We will strengthen wording in the agreement on VLA’s commitment to the mixed-service model of CLCs, including support for CLCs to engage in individual and systemic advocacy.

Action: 5 & 13.

More information

Please send your feedback about these changes by Monday 13 May at clspreform@vla.vic.gov.au.

A reminder that we are also looking for feedback from CLCs on a range of other reform topics over the next 18 months including: Data and Information Sharing; Workplan and Reporting Templates; Quality and Risk Management; and Capacity Building. Get in early and contact us if you would like to participate in one or more of these working groups.

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