Our organisation continues to face the challenge of providing more legal services in increasingly complex matters, with the growing demand for services.
Our 2018–19 Annual Report, tabled in the Victorian Parliament today, shows we delivered more services, helping more Victorians than ever. But with legal need in the community increasing and our financial position uncertain, delivering these vital services is more challenging than ever.
Our Chief Executive Officer, Louise Glanville, says we made it easier for people to get help in more accessible ways while we assisted 100,061 individual clients, an increase of six per cent.
‘We opened our Legal Help telephone line for an extra 90 minutes a day and launched a webchat service for people looking for general information about legal issues,’ Louise said.
‘We also transitioned the content of the Everyday-Law website from the Victorian Law Foundation into our own website. This means Victorians can now go to one website to access important legal information.’
In 2018–19, we provided 45,448 legal services and 25,056 community legal education and information sessions for family violence problems.
‘Our continued focus on family violence has seen an increase of 76 per cent in advice sessions provided by our Legal Help telephone service and a 21 per cent increase in duty lawyer services across Victoria Legal Aid this financial year.’
Louise says the Annual Report highlights the many and diverse achievements our organisation has accomplished over the past 12 months, such as launching the new Independent Family Advocacy and Support (IFAS) pilot in Moreland, Darebin and Bendigo.
‘This service is the first of its kind in Victoria. I am proud we are exploring this model of non-legal advocacy, because we know providing earlier help and support can make a difference in keeping more families together as well as resolving matters before they get to court.’
While it is pleasing to end the year with a small surplus of $3 million, it masks the challenging financial position we face.
‘The surplus is due to a three-year funding arrangement from the Legal Services Board for our Digital Legal Aid strategy. Excluding this item, the underlying result was a small deficit of $0.4 million,’ Louise said.
‘Despite a series of internal savings measures implemented in the second half of 2018–19, we are still forecasting significant operating deficits into the future.
‘We are taking active steps, in consultation with government and our stakeholders, to reverse this trend and return to a financially sustainable position.’
Key figures and highlights
• Provided 45,180 grants of legal assistance, up five per cent
• Delivered 86,272 in-house duty lawyer services, up four per cent
• Held 556 community legal education sessions, up 55 per cent
• Legal Help responded to 140,224 requests for help by phone, chat and in person
• Provided 7,758 people with legal assistance through our new online live chat service, and answered 84 per cent of chat requests
• Provided 45,448 family violence legal services, up 16 per cent
• Private practitioners delivered 11,524 duty lawyer services, up five per cent and 34,478 grants of legal assistance, up seven per cent
• Community legal centres delivered 15,697 duty lawyer services, up 28 per cent
‘We have highly dedicated private partners, community legal centre practitioners and staff who seek to improve the lives of Victorians, and we thank them for their professionalism and ongoing commitment,’ Louise said.