Based on stakeholder consultations, Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) has announced their decisions to change child protection and family law services to make financial savings in line with their funding availability.
Below is a short summary of the changes to be implemented. The full announcement can be accessed by clicking here. The full announcement includes time-frames for implementation, changes that VLA did not implement, original proposals as well as more detail on stakeholder feedback regarding specific decisions.
Child protection legal services (state-funded)
VLA will now:
- Require legal aid-funded parties to seek costs against the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) if the DHHS has not filed and served on all parties a report when required to by legislation or by court order, unless all parties consent to the making or variation of a court order; and
- Limit funding for legal representation for Children’s Court conferencing to only one conciliation conference per matter.
Intervention order legal services (state-funded)
VLA will go ahead with the following two measures, with some modification to the second:
- Removing grants of aid for adults for personal safety intervention order matters; and
- Removing duty lawyer services for adults in personal safety intervention order matters, with exceptions that duty lawyer services will still be available where:
1. The client is receiving assistance with a related family violence intervention order matter, or
2. The duty lawyer is already present at court for other lists and the client has a cognitive or neurological disability.
Family law legal services (Commonwealth funded)
- Remove the instructing solicitor fee for Independent Children's Lawyers;
- Reduce the number of Independent Children's Lawyer appointments they fund; and
- Reduce general family law duty lawyer support outside of the Family Advocacy and Support Services (FASS) enhanced duty lawyer service at the Melbourne and Dandenong permanent family law court registries.
VLA is currently seeking stakeholder feedback regarding a third possible decision regarding child protection legal services.
- Limiting eligibility for grants of assistance to exclude spouses and domestic partners as referred to under the definition of parent in section 3 of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005, except where the spouse or domestic partner:
1. is a primary carer of the child; or
2. ordinarily lives with the subject child and the DHHS seeks an order (including an interim order) to restrict contact or communication between them and the child; and the conditions restricting contact or communication are different from the conditions sought for the mother or father to whom they are a spouse or domestic partner.