Financial sustainability changes starting 1 July 2020

Financial sustainability changes starting 1 July 2020

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Read details of savings initiatives in the family and children’s law area, which commenced 1 July 2020:

Limiting eligibility for child protection grants of assistance to exclude spouses and domestic partners (with some exceptions)

In January 2020, we announced several savings measures in child protection, including:

  • requiring legal aid-funded parties to seek costs against the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) in certain circumstances (commenced 17 February 2020), and
  • limiting funding for legal representation for Children’s Court conferencing to only one conciliation conference per matter (commenced 17 February 2020).

We also proposed a further savings measure to limit eligibility for grants for spouses and domestic partners in certain circumstances. We did not receive further concerns during final consultation on this proposal and will go ahead with the savings measure.

From 1 July 2020, eligibility for a grant of legal assistance for a spouse or domestic partner of the mother or father of a child subject to child protection proceedings will be restricted to those applicants who:

  • are a primary carer of the child

OR

  • ordinarily live with the subject child; and the DHHS seeks an order (including an interim order) to restrict contact or communication between the applicant and the child; and the conditions restricting communication or contact are different from the conditions sought for the mother or father to whom the applicant is a spouse or domestic partner.

This change is reflected in Guideline 2.1 of the State Family Guidelines, and in the Notes on Guideline 2 (updates from 1 July).

This change applies to new grants of legal assistance only. Eligibility for the duty lawyer service remains unchanged.     

Removing grants of aid for adults for legal assistance in Personal Safety Intervention Order matters

From 1 July 2020, adults will no longer be eligible to apply for a grant of legal assistance for legal representation in personal safety intervention order (PSIO) matters, with the exception of those who meet our State Special Circumstances guideline

There is no reduction in eligibility for legal assistance for children in PSIO matters. The guidelines for grants of legal assistance for child applicants and child respondents (update from 1 July) in personal safety intervention order matters have been refined to encourage resolution through mediation and to allow a grant of legal assistance to be put in place earlier, where a matter is unable to resolve through mediation. This will promote early resolution of matters and ensure children have access to legal representation. 

We may also provide a grant of legal assistance to a child protected person aged 10 years or older where the court grants leave on its own initiative for a child to be heard separately in a PSIO matter.

Introducing new duty lawyer guidelines for personal safety intervention order matters

From 1 July 2020, our duty lawyer guidelines for personal aafety intervention order matters(update accessible from 1 July) have been changed to prioritise the provision of duty lawyer advice and in-court representation for children.

Children will continue to be eligible for duty lawyer assistance at all stages of proceedings.

All adults will still be able to receive legal information in the form of our PSIO ‘self-help’ guides (available from 1 July).

Adults will only be eligible for duty lawyer legal advice or representation where they have:

  • a related family violence matter listed on the same day, or
  • a cognitive or neurological disability.

Adults responding to a personal safety intervention order application, who have also been charged with criminal offences in connection to that matter, may still be able to access our criminal law duty lawyer service.

Reducing general family law duty lawyer support

From 1 July 2020 we are reducing general family law duty lawyer support at the Melbourne and Dandenong permanent family law court registries, outside of the Family Advocacy and Support Services (FASS) enhanced duty lawyer service.

FASS services remain unaffected. Parties are eligible for FASS if their matter involves a history or risk of family violence. FASS has been evaluated as a highly successful service and Commonwealth funding for the FASS pilot was recently extended for another three years. FASS has also become the primary channel for duty lawyer services in the permanent family law court registries.

We will also continue to provide general family law duty lawyer services at Melbourne and Dandenong to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, those with a cognitive impairment, such as an intellectual disability or acquired brain injury, that impacts on their ability to represent themselves, and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse people who require an interpreter.

Regional family law duty lawyer services are unchanged.

Both FASS and general duty lawyer services at the permanent family law court registries in Victoria are delivered by alternate Victoria Legal Aid and community legal centre services. Funding for community legal centres providing the alternate family law duty lawyer services are also unaffected by this decision.

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