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START OF Annual reports
START OF 2013-14 annual report
END OF 2013-14 annual report
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During 2013–14, Legal Aid Queensland expanded the scope and volume of its frontline legal services to financially disadvantaged Queenslanders, while continuing to focus on financial sustainability.
We easily surpassed the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services (NPA) requirement to increase the number of services provided by 25 percent, compared with the baseline year 2009–10. The past year also saw increases in service delivery areas such as web-based legal information, legal advice, family and criminal law duty lawyer services, dispute resolution services, and approvals for grants of aid.
As part of our commitment to Queensland’s public service values — customers first, ideas into action, be courageous, unleash potential and empower people — and in pursuit of our NPA goals, we expanded the scope of our services involving early resolution, social inclusion and collaboration. This included expanding our legal advice referral pathways program to Bundaberg and Mackay, issuing a fourth round of grants to community organisations from our Community Legal Education Collaboration Fund and establishing new legal advice clinics at the Social Security Appeals Tribunal and the Refugee and Immigration Legal Service. We started a Family Dispute Early Resolution pilot program, which has expanded our highly successful lawyer-assisted family law conferencing program. Partnering with Micah Projects, we also established a pilot project to provide legal services to young pregnant women or women with vulnerable children. Unfortunately, however, we could not maintain our expanded regional civil law network due to changes in our Commonwealth funding arrangements.
Our biggest expenditure item is grants of aid for legal representation. Our Grants division worked tirelessly during the past year to process and approve an increased number of grants of aid while maintaining a high level of quality, with only 4.3 percent of grants refusals overturned on review. As part of our commitment to the private legal profession, we increased fees for grants of aid in a range of areas. We increased fees payable for all Commonwealth civil and family law grants of aid, as well as fees for child protection matters, by five percent. We also introduced fee increases for preparation fees for standard trial matters in the Magistrates and District Courts. The Legal Aid Queensland Board also approved a second round of criminal law fee increases for court time, which will begin on 1 July 2014.
Our ability to fund criminal law fee increases was the result of improvements made to the administration of our expensive case fee packages in late 2013, following consultation with the legal profession about growing expenditure on these matters. We also strengthened our collaboration with the legal profession during the year through initiatives such as establishing an industry reference group with representatives from the Queensland Law Society and Bar Association of Queensland, running the junior barrister briefing program, and working with the profession to conduct independent children’s lawyer training.
We also supported government policy development and the efficent management of the justice system by collaborating with our colleagues in government and the courts. We participated in the Intergrated Criminal Justice Videoconferencing Working Group and the Child Protection Reforms Senior Officers Group.
Just as an army marches on its stomach, frontline service delivery relies on essential corporate services — from information technology and accounting services to records management. In 2013–14, we began a project to upgrade all of our desktop computers to Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2010. We also made improvements to our Brisbane, Ipswich and Caboolture offices. Importantly, we recorded an operational surplus for the fifth year in a row.
I would like to thank the staff at Legal Aid Queensland and our partner private lawyers for their fantastic efforts during the year. Thanks also to our great management team and to the Legal Aid Queensland Board. Brian Stewart, as our new chair, is a welcome source of experience and enthusiasm. I would also like to express my appreciation of Department of Justice and Attorney-General director-general John Sosso’s support and candour. As our chair has already done, I also thank our state and federal Attorneys-General for their continued support.
Chief executive officer