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Head Note December 2015

Increased fees for 2016

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From 18 January 2016, Legal Aid Queensland will increase fees paid to lawyers, social workers and psychologists undertaking select legal aid work, as well as increases to travel and accommodation allowances.

“Private law firms deliver around 80 percent of legal aid services to the community, making a major contribution to meeting the legal needs of people across the state,” Legal Aid Queensland CEO Anthony Reilly said.

“We are committed to identifying and implementing financially sustainable opportunities to increase fees paid to private practitioners where appropriate.”

The following fee increases will begin on 18 January 2016:

  • Seven percent fee increase for fees paid to solicitors in family law matters from $126 to $135 an hour.
  • Increase hourly rates for social workers and psychologists who produce family reports/evidence from $95 to $102 per hour.
  • Increase the number of hours allowed for standard family reports:
    • initial family reports—rounded up to 15 hours, increasing the fee from $1,418 to $1,530
    • updated family reports—rounded up to nine hours, increasing the fee from $788 to $918. 
  • Five percent fee increases for criminal law duty lawyer, and outsourced advice fees will increase from $120 to 126 per hour. 
  • Five percent fee increase for fee rates for domestic violence grants of aid from $105 to $110 per hour.
  • For separate representatives in child protection matters, the hours available for inspection of the court file will be increased from two hours ($252) to four hours ($504) increasing the overall allowance for perusing relevant material including the departmental file to 10 hours. Hours available for trial preparation will be increased from 10 hours to 14 hours increasing the preparation fee from $1,260 to $1,764.
  • Increases to travel and accommodation allowances, including:
    • increasing the travel time allowance from $60 to $66 an hour
    • increasing the travel expense allowance from $0.60 to $0.65 a kilometre
    • increasing the accommodation allowance for major cities from $186 to $205 a night
    • increasing the regional accommodation allowance from $136 to $165 a night.
  • The additional preparation fee for summary pleas involving 20 or more charges will be increased from $165 to $220.
  • Fees for inquests will be increased from $95 an hour to $110 an hour for solicitor and the counsel fee on brief, currently $771, will be aligned with the summary trial rate of $1,200 for day one. 

If lawyers or other practitioners have questions about the fee increases they can contact their firm’s grants officer for further information.


Family law guidelines and funding model changes

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New family law guidelines for dispute resolution, parenting/property orders and consent orders, and a realigned family law funding model for litigation, were introduced by Legal Aid Queensland on Monday, 9 November 2015.

The Grants Policy Manual has been updated to reflect the changes, including the Family Dispute Resolution Services, Parenting Orders, Property and Consent Orders sections. The Grants Handbook has also been updated to provide interpretation for each of these revised guidelines.

A summary of the realigned funding model(PDF, 74KB), which gives an overview of the model including the stages, clause codes, hours and fees for solicitor and counsel at each stage, is also available. This summary of the realigned model can be used in conjunction with the Grants Handbook.

Legal Aid Queensland’s Grants manager Louise Martin delivered a webinar in early November outlining the changes to the family law guidelines and explaining the funding model. The webinar is available to view online.

If you have any questions about the revised guidelines or funding model please contact your Legal Aid grants officer who will be able to help.


New Legal Aid Queensland website

Legal Aid Queensland’s new website is now live!

We’ve spent around 18 months redeveloping the website to make it easier to navigate and to include a range of new features like:

  • mobile accessibility, making the site easy to read on smart phones and tablets
  • improved search functionality, both within the site and through Google
  • a quick exit button on the right of each page, which allows users who are viewing sensitive information (ie domestic violence information) to quickly exit the site and redirects them to the Bureau of Meteorology website
  • an in-built screen reader and translation tool called “BrowseAloud” which will read out our content to users (especially useful for people with vision impairments or low literacy levels)
  • a ‘For lawyers’ section, which will include announcements, key policy and procedures (like the Grants Handbook, best practice and case management standards) for our preferred supplier lawyers
  • and a ‘Find a lawyer’ search feature, which will allow users to locate a preferred supplier or community legal centre near them.

The Communication and Community Legal Education team, in conjunction with our legal experts, have rewritten the top 100 pages of legal content on the website, to make it easier to use and understand. The new website will also meet our accessibility requirements under WCAG 2.0.

We hope you enjoy the new site and welcome your feedback.


Helping disability sector workers connect clients to Legal Aid services

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Presenter at Legal Aid’s information forum for disability sector workers

Legal Aid Queensland is committed to helping community workers connect their clients with the services they need.

Each year, we partner with the Queensland Council of Social Services to hold information forums for community workers to help them learn more about our services and how to access them.

Our most recent forum - ‘Connecting disability workers and their clients to Legal Aid services’ – was held in November, with more than 50 disability workers/advocates attending.

The forum covered our legal information and legal advice services and how our Civil Justice Services team can help vulnerable clients with legal issues (ie consumer protection issues, debt/mortgage stress, unfair contracts, employment law issues, discrimination, social security appeals, and the Civil Law Legal Aid Scheme).

Attendees were given a sneak preview of the new and improved Legal Aid Queensland website which was launched on 8 December 2015, with enhanced content and improved accessibility for users.

Attendees also had the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback on how accessible our services are for people with disabilities.

Legal Aid Queensland will continue to work with the sector to ensure its services are accessible and appropriate for vulnerable clients.

A video of the forum will be uploaded to the Legal Aid Queensland YouTube channel in early 2016.

For more information please contact the Community Legal Education team.


Improving outcomes for children and their families in the child protection system

Churchill Fellowship recipient Nigel Miller
Churchill Fellowship recipient Nigel Miller

Establishing a child protection law specialist accreditation program in Queensland to help improve outcomes for children and families involved in the child protection system, was the focus of a recent Churchill Fellowship project undertaken by Legal Aid Queensland lawyer Nigel Miller.

Nigel is a principal lawyer in Legal Aid Queensland’s Children and Young People team and has practiced in child protection law for 10 years.

Nigel’s practice involves both best interests and direct instructions advocacy for children and young people in care, and acting for parents in the child protection jurisdiction. Nigel also practices as an Independent Children’s Lawyer in the family law jurisdiction.

He was awarded a 2014 Churchill Fellowship to observe a number of different child protection law specialist accreditation programs in the USA, Canada, Switzerland, England and Scotland, which included meeting with child protection experts and organisations in each country, and observing child protection court proceedings.

In his recently published Churchill Fellowship project report Nigel recommended a child protection law specialist accreditation program be established in Queensland using a staged approach, supported by tertiary education and continuing professional development.

According to the report, this approach should help to ensure competent and committed lawyers are developed and attracted to practising in child protection law, helping to improve outcomes for children and families involved in the child protection system.


Protecting peoples’ legal rights

Every day, Legal Aid Queensland staff help protect the legal rights of hundreds of vulnerable and disadvantaged people across Queensland.

An example of this commitment to our clients is our successful appeal of an obstructing police conviction for a young client, Anna*.

Anna* and a male friend were stopped by police after attending a party in order to conduct a search. During the course of this lawful search the police officer announced they wanted to search Anna’s bra area. In response Anna said ‘No’ and stepped away from the police officer and was subsequently arrested and charged with obstructing police.

The presiding judge found the police officer did not adequately warn Anna* that it is an offence to obstruct a police officer in the performance of the police officer's duties. As this warning was not given, the presiding judge found Anna’s subsequent arrest and charge were invalid and overturned the conviction.

*Name changed for privacy reasons.


Domestic and family violence duty lawyer service expands statewide

Legal Aid Queensland’s domestic and family violence duty lawyer service has been expanded to 10 new locations, thanks to an additional $1.1 million in state government funding.

In October 2015 the duty lawyer service was expanded to include:

  • Caboolture
  • Ipswich
  • Toowoomba
  • Maroochydore
  • Bundaberg
  • Rockhampton
  • Mackay
  • Mount Isa
  • Townsville
  • Cairns.

The service was already operating in:

  • Brisbane
  • Richlands
  • Beenleigh
  • Southport.

“LAQ has collaborated with the Queensland Government, courts, private legal profession and community legal centres to establish the domestic and family violence duty lawyer service in 14 locations across Queensland,” Legal Aid Queensland CEO Anthony Reilly said.

“The rollout of the service is testament to our statewide infrastructure and strong relationships with key stakeholders across Queensland.

“We look forward to continuing our partnership with key stakeholders to ensure vulnerable Queenslanders experiencing domestic violence have access to free legal help through the duty lawyer service.”


Publication update

The following publications have been updated since our last edition of Head Note:

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