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Preferred supplier newsletter—April 2019

This month:

  • Changes to the asset test component of the means test – effective from 29 March 2019
  • New family law panel – Commonwealth family violence and cross examination of parties scheme
  • Retention and destruction of documents
  • Upgrades to video conference facilities at correctional centres – interruption to services
  • Upcoming CPD events

 

Changes to the asset test component of the means test – effective from 29 March 2019

The Legal Aid Queensland Board has approved changes to the assets test component of the means test to improve access to justice for people who have a small amount of savings. 

For all applications for aid assessed from 29 March 2019, applicants for grants of aid will have the first $2000 of their cash savings excluded from the means test calculation.

This change to the means test is designed to recognise most financially disadvantaged clients do not own their own home. These clients may be placed in a vulnerable position should they need to spend these savings on legal fees. Doing so would remove their ‘safety net’ or ability to respond to an emergency.

Improving our means test will help us to pursue our goal of providing quality legal services to financially disadvantaged people.

New family law panel – Commonwealth family violence and cross examination of parties scheme

Expressions of interest are being sought from existing preferred suppliers for a new preferred supplier sub list — family law cross examination scheme. 

On 10 March 2019, the Family Law Act 1975 was changed to include s102NA which will ban direct cross examination in certain circumstances. The provision applies to cross-examinations that occur after 10 September 2019. The Act protects victims of family violence by requiring that cross examination must be conducted by a legal representative. This can be either a private practitioner or one funded through this scheme. The ban applies to both parties and both parties are eligible to apply for representation under the scheme. Representation under the scheme is not means or merit tested however parties may be asked to contribute to the cost of their representation.

This scheme is funded by the Commonwealth Government and will be administered in Queensland by Legal Aid Queensland. Funding for representation under the scheme will be available at the current Legal Aid Queensland scale of fees for the preparation and appearance at the final hearing (including counsel) and late stage legally assisted family dispute resolution, if appropriate.

The eligibility criteria and details of how to apply are available in this recent announcement. Initial expressions of interest for the new panel are to be submitted to psupp.coordinator@legalaid.qld.gov.au by close of business Friday 10 May 2019.

 

Retention and destruction of documents

In January, we provided clarification to firms about their obligations in complying with the disposal freeze relating to all “Records that are relevant to, or may become relevant to, an allegation of child sexual abuse”. Our Records team have been receiving queries from firms about their obligations regarding retention and destruction of records for legally-aided matters. Firms should ensure they are complying with their obligations under the Australian Solicitor’s Conduct Rules, rule 14.2 in relation to retention and destruction of files. We strongly recommend firms get client consent about destroying documents. 

Where files are destroyed before seven years, practitioners should keep in mind that the client's financial particulars, supporting merit checklist material and material to support any claims may be reviewed as part of the preferred supplier audit process.

A copy of the following information/material should therefore be retained:

  • documentation to verify the financial information and the certified merit checklist information submitted electronically to Legal Aid Queensland
  • file notes for personal, group conference and court attendances
  • file notes for preparation
  • copies of invoices for expert reports and any receipt for outlays claimed.

 

If you have any questions about the documentation to be retained for audit purposes, please contact LAQGrantsCompliance@legalaid.qld.gov.au

Upgrades to videoconference facilities at correctional centres – interruption to services

Correctional centres across the state are receiving much needed upgrades to existing equipment and facilities. This work must be completed before the end of the financial year.

Details in relation to the correctional centres impacted by the closures and the closure periods are available in this recent announcement

 

Upcoming CPD events

For all upcoming CPD events, please see the For Lawyers page on Legal Aid Queensland website.

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