Victoria Legal Aid has welcomed the extra funding announced by the State Government today to provide essential legal services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The significant funding package for the legal assistance sector, including Victoria Legal Aid will mean the whole system can efficiently respond to the unique challenges posed by the pandemic and continue to deliver justice and community safety.
Responding to the funding announcement, Victoria Legal Aid CEO, Louise Glanville said ‘ensuring Victorians have access to justice and receive fair, equitable treatment in the justice system is critical in times of crisis.’
‘This additional funding of $17.5 million from the State Government for frontline legal services responds to the changing demands for legal help during the pandemic. It’s reassuring that the Government has recognised these immediate needs and responded’ said Ms Glanville.
Victoria Legal Aid along with our practice partners have continued to deliver essential legal assistance during the pandemic, rapidly shifting to delivering services over the phone or using our webchat rather than face-to-face.
‘Like so many organisations, we’ve redirected our services to online or over the phone to keep our staff, clients and the community safe. We’re working with our colleagues in the Court and Corrections system to utilise audio visual technology, to limit disruption as much as possible.’ Said Ms Glanville.
Even in more settled times, people don’t often recognise the issues they might be experiencing as legal issues and there is a clear link between social need and legal need. People who are unemployed or experiencing insecure housing are also more likely to experience other legal issues, which is why it’s important people can access legal information and advice early on.
We are already seeing an increase in requests for legal information on a range of issues including family law and parenting matters, family violence, and issues related to housing and employment.
‘Many people are suffering financial strain, employment and housing insecurity, and physical isolation. We are very concerned that the isolating effect of COVID-19 on our community is increasing the risk of family violence. While these factors themselves don’t cause family violence, they could be contributing to an environment of increased risk.’
‘Today’s funding announcement means that along with our legal sector partners we can ensure the community continues to have access to legal information and advice about family violence. Having early access to appropriate legal assistance can help to mitigate the risk.’ said Ms Glanville.
We are also pleased that the State Government has today committed to the new National Legal Assistance Partnership 2020-25 Agreement. This provides funding certainty over the next five years, following the expiration of the current agreement at the end of June.
‘The national funding arrangements mean we can continue to assist vulnerable people with complex lives navigate their way through the justice system.’ said Ms Glanville.
We are pleased with the funding boost and will continue to work closely with the private legal profession and with community legal centres in considering where our efforts are best focussed with the resources made available to us.