Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2014 Week 1 Hansard (27 February) . . Page.. 370..
Legal Aid Commission—eligibility criteria
(Question No 191)
Mr Hanson asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 27 November 2013:
(1) In relation to the Legal Aid Commission's Annual Report 2012-2013, pages 19, 37 and 46—Legal Services, can the Minister advise, in view of the financial resourcing shortfalls, what changes has the Commission made to the criteria it uses to assess whether clients are eligible for legal aid.
(2) To what extent is it now harder for people in need to get legal aid assistance.
(3) What reduction in grants does the Commission anticipate in 2013-2014.
(4) Why is the Government refusing to fund the Commission sufficiently to keep pace with the demand for client services.
Mr Corbell: The answer to the member's question is as follows:
(1) In 2012-13 the Commission has applied a tighter exercise of discretion to grant assistance for representation under the existing Guidelines. The Commission only made a minor change to the criteria in the Legal Assistance Guidelines under which the reasonableness test for Territory and Commonwealth matters were aligned.
(2) While the number of grants for representation is lower than in previous years, the provision of assistance in other areas such as information and referral, advice and Helpline services has increased.
(3) The Commission made 2214 grants of legal aid in 2012-13. The Commission forecasts making 1980 grants of legal aid in 2013-14.
(4) The ACT Government has maintained funding for the Legal Aid Commission in recent years. In addition, the Legal Aid Commission has improved efficiency and reduced overhead costs through measures including the following:
• The implementation of an e-grants system in 2011, which allowed for online invoicing of private practitioners (increasing convenience to them and their clients);
• The establishment of the Legal Aid Helpdesk, to help triage incoming requests from the community; and
• The establishment of the ACT Legal Assistance Forum in 2008, which brings Legal Aid ACT and community legal centres together to coordinate services.
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