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Preferred supplier newsletter — June 2022

This month:

Queensland State Budget

The State Budget was handed down on 21 June and included some positive news on the funding front for Legal Aid Queensland (LAQ), our preferred suppliers, counsel at the private bar and specialists, and most importantly for our clients. The government has committed to providing $76.8m of additional funding over four years to meet increasing demand for core legal services in criminal law, domestic and family violence and child protection, and increase the fees paid to private lawyers and specialists, like psychiatrists, who do legal aid work on our behalf.

LAQ was also allocated an additional $21.3M over 4 years to enhance and expand our services in specialist domestic and family violence courts as part of the response to the Women's Safety and Justice Taskforce Report 1, Hear Her Voice.

LAQ will release further details about the funding increases in due course.

Mental Health Review Tribunal Panel

We are currently seeking expressions of interest for the MHRT Panel in Mackay, Rockhampton, Townsville, Sunshine Coast and Cairns. Those who wish to apply for this Panel must already be a preferred supplier or a community legal centre. All practitioners appearing in the Mental Health Review Tribunal (MHRT) in matters allocated pursuant to the LAQ MHRT Service Order arrangements must have fulfilled the accreditation requirements prescribed by LAQ. Further information in relation to the MHRT Panel and the accreditation requirements can be viewed here.

2022-2025 Independent Children’s Lawyer and Separate Representative Agreement

A reminder that the current Independent Children’s Lawyer and Separate Representative Agreement is due to expire on 31 July 2022 and the new agreement will start 1 August 2022 and expire 31 July 2025.

Application packages for the 2022-2025 agreement are now available and can be accessed here for both existing and new applicants.

Developments in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia

The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia have recently issued two media releases. The first is an update to the profession about operational matters in the family law jurisdiction following the reforms that were implemented on 1 September 2021. This covers applications for consent orders, additional documents required to initiate proceedings, subpoenas, costs notices, family reports, the Lighthouse project and ongoing professional education — https://www.fcfcoa.gov.au/fl/profession-update-310522.

The second media release provides details of a new family law Critical Incident List to help make arrangements for children during a time of crisis, which commenced on 6 June 2022 and is managed nationally by Justice Jacoba Brasch QC — Media Release: New family law Critical Incident List to help make arrangements for children during a time of crisis | Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (fcfcoa.gov.au). A Practice Direction has been implemented to support the operation of the Critical Incident List — Family Law Practice Direction: Critical Incident List | Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (fcfcoa.gov.au).

Obtaining money from legally aided clients

All firms should be aware of their obligations under the preferred supplier agreement in relation to not seeking payment from legally aided clients.  Under the 2021-2024 agreement, there are 4 clauses that address this issue – clauses 4.6, 4.7, 4.8 and 4.9.  All firms are encouraged to revisit these provisions and to ensure that their staff are aware of them, and that office arrangements and internal procedures are in place to address the situation, should it arise, that a legally aided client wishes to enter a private fee paying arrangement.

To assist firms in applying these clauses to a factual scenario, we have provided the following example of what should occur where a client has a grant of aid for their substantive criminal law matter and seeks to engage your firm on a private basis for the bail application.  You should:

  • advise the client of the availability of funding for a bail application and retain proof of the advice on your file,
  • obtain written instructions from the client if they do not wish to make an application for an extension of aid for a bail application, and
  • advise LAQ in writing if the client has provided private funds to your office for a bail application.

Once in receipt of this information, the grants officer will make an individual assessment in relation to the client’s ongoing financial eligibility which may include a termination of the substantive grant of aid, until such time as the private funds have been exhausted.  Under the practice management standards, preferred suppliers have always had an obligation to ensure that any information which may impact on the merit or financial eligibility of a person with a grant of legal aid is reported to LAQ.  This requirement in the practice management standards remains and is now enforced by the contractual obligation. 

LAQ will continue to audit preferred supplier law firms as part of our ongoing commitment to financial accountability and maintaining effective systems of internal audit controls and compliance to protect against financial loss.  These audit procedures may include telephoning legally aided clients to see if they have provided any payment to a legally aided preferred supplier. 

Legislative changes relevant to the Mental Health Review Tribunal

New legislation has been passed by parliament with some significant changes relevant to Mental Health Review Tribunal lawyers that are likely coming into effect on 1 July 2022.

Please review the information here.

Latest news regarding QTranscripts portal

As advised in previous Preferred Supplier Newsletters, the Department of Justice and Attorney-General is moving to a new way of delivering recording and transcription services across Queensland Courts and Tribunals.

For the June 2022 Newsletters, please find Issue One here and Issue Two here.

Continuing professional development

Recorded CPD seminars are available on Grants Online under the Information Resources tab.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates

The latest information about COVID-19 for preferred suppliers can be viewed here.

Preferred suppliers are reminded to ensure they are confident in their ability to respond to COVID-19 by understanding the risk, minimising it where possible and complying with government and court directions

Feedback

We welcome feedback and comments from clients, the community and our suppliers. As preferred suppliers you play an important role in helping us to provide quality legal services to disadvantaged Queenslanders. If you would like to provide comments or suggestions to us about our services, policies, processes or staff members, you can complete a contact form or email us at complaints@legalaid.qld.gov.au at any time.

Your feedback is important to us. We ensure a senior staff member investigates all issues raised thoroughly and we analyse all feedback every quarter to see what processes and services can be improved.

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