Victoria Legal Aid’s second round of changes to its eligibility guidelines took effect on the 8th of April 2013.
Loddon Campaspe CLC has experienced an increase in demand for assistance from people who are no longer eligible for assistance from Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) and expects that this will continue. Some of the cuts which we believe are likely to impact include:
- Reduction in provision of representation of duty lawyer services for criminal, family and family violence matters. VLA duty lawyers will only represent clients who are “priority clients” (deemed vulnerable by VLA) and who have “serious matters”.
- No grant of aid for people who apply for or who are respondents in Personal Safety Intervention Order matters except children, those experiencing homelessness, and matters which involve “obsessed stalking behaviour”.
- No grant of aid for adults charged with a summary crime unless they face imprisonment.
- No grant of aid for third parties in child protection matters (unless deemed critical by the Court) and no funding for parents in contested hearings only seeking contact with the child/children.
- No funding provided for family law trial unless the other party is legally represented (eg where both parties qualify for Legal Aid, neither will be represented at trial).
- Grants of aid for instructing solicitor at trial for indictable offences capped at 2 days.
- VLA’s Roundtable Dispute Resolution will only be offered to “priority clients”. Given that mediation is a mandatory step before a matter can proceed to court, this reduction is likely to increase the demand on Family Relationship Centres who offer an alternative service.
The Law Institute of Victoria website has called upon the Victorian Attorney-General to intervene in the current Legal Aid funding crisis and has also called for a review of VLA.
Loddon Campaspe CLC acknowledges that VLA has been forced to implement measures due to external factors, including the Government’s ‘tough on crime’ approach, which has created an increased demand for legal services. Unfortunately, the impacts of the funding cuts are felt by those who cannot afford or get access to a private lawyer.
Loddon Campaspe CLC calls upon the Government to increase funding for legal aid, courts and support services to ensure that vulnerable people are not denied access to justice.
Image: Patrick Feller