Victoria Legal Aid annual report tabled

Victoria Legal Aid annual report tabled

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

The Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) Annual Report 2012–13 was tabled in Parliament today.

Managing Director Bevan Warner said Victoria Legal Aid  finished the year with a comprehensive deficit of $9.3 million, compared with $3.1 million last year. However, it was now moving to a more stable financial footing as the changes to eligibility guidelines introduced this year began to take effect.

‘Many of our new eligibility guidelines were not introduced until April this year and there is a lag between when the work is done, and when payment is made, especially with criminal trials,’ he said. ‘This means over the past 12 months VLA was still paying out on grants which may have been approved two years ago. So the savings from changes will start to be seen in 2014.’

In 2012–13 Victoria Legal Aid assisted 86,861 people, funded 39,782 grants of legal assistance, funded 65,303 duty lawyer services and took 81,790 information calls.

Mr Warner said Victoria Legal Aid had helped fewer clients than in 2011–12 because it was now prioritising the most vulnerable clients and doing more work on their cases.

He said Victoria Legal Aid’s most significant area of spending – $77.5 million – continued to be to lawyers in private practice representing legally aided clients.

‘Demand for our services remains high and on top of this the cost of delivering justice is becoming more expensive around Australia, in legally aided and private matters, as criminal trials become longer, more costly and more complicated,’ he said. ‘This means we need to continue managing the legal aid fund carefully and responsibly, by setting priorities and ensuring our most expensive, intensive services are going to the people who need them most.

‘We are reducing the number of grants of assistance – the most expensive form of delivering justice – by prioritising them for the most vulnerable clients and those facing the most serious consequences. People facing less serious charges are continuing to be represented in court by our duty lawyer service. We are also becoming better at resolving people’s legal matters earlier, resulting in fewer repeat services and court dates.’

The annual report also shows a one-third reduction in spending on criminal appeals.

Mr Warner said Victoria Legal Aid was also helping more people with preventative services – such as the Legal Help phone line and our website, which received more than one million visits.

‘We are also referring more people to other agencies, such as drug and alcohol counselling, financial counselling and housing, health and employment services, to help them address the underlying problems which often see them get in trouble with the law,’ he said.

Mr Warner said there had also been a significant expansion of civil outreach, equality law, family financial assistance and Independent Children’s Lawyer programs into regional offices.

View the annual report.

More information

If you have a media inquiry contact Janine Sim-Jones on 0402 715 381.

Was this helpful?