Annual Report 2020-2021, Northern Territory Legal Aid Commission
Tabled Paper 433
Tabled Papers for 14th Assembly 2020 -; Tabled Papers; ParliamentNT
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
n o rth e rn te rrito ry le g a l a id c o m m issio n a n n u a l re p o rt 2 0 2 0 /2 1 0 3 3 and assistance to callers. As legislation and processes constantly change training and development of our resources is continuous. As a result of COVID-19, NT Legal Aid was successful in obtaining funding from the NT Government to begin an online chat service. The funding enabled us to employ another part time Helpline operator, as well as obtain on-line chat service licences. The primary aim of the chat service is to allow an alternate avenue of contact for people who are isolated and at risk of domestic and family violence. The chat service is available on both the NT Legal Aid and Domestic Violence Legal Service websites. The service went live in April 2021. The service is operated by the Helpline staff, who now have dual roles. To the end of this financial year the service had assisted with 57 chats. The number of callers to the service continues to expand with 23,388 callers being provided with assistance during 20202021, an increase of 7% from the previous year. Our partnership with Supportlink throughout the NT continues to work well, providing assistance to people requiring legal help. Referrals from Supportlink primarily come from the NT Police. The Helpline receives referrals from Supportlink for people who may need legal assistance. The Helpline initiates contact with people requiring legal assistance and/or legal advice. This initiative takes the stress of initiating contact with legal services away from the client. The Helpline makes the call to the client and discusses the best way to provide them with assistance, whether it is by providing legal information or an appointment to obtain legal advice. Assistance was provided to 1061 people through the Supportlink service this year. Financial Counselling Service NT Legal Aid successfully applied for funding from the NT Government to provide an inhouse financial counselling service. NT Legal Aid recognised the devastating impact of Covid-19 on individuals and families - moving people into isolation, impacts on employment and economic circumstances and relationship stressors all of which can lead to an increase in domestic and family violence. A financial counsellor can respond to an increase in service demand by people with legal problems and suffering financial hardship, with a focus on those experiencing domestic and family violence. The service embraces the emerging evidence of best practice in integrating social and financial support services within a legal service. The approach recognises that clients of legal services have underlying social and financial issues that are intertwined with the legal issue and this is impeding them from addressing their legal issue and moving on with their life. Unless both the social/ financial and legal issues are addressed, the client will continue to encounter challenges in resolving one or both of the concerns. After undertaking a recruitment process a financial counsellor joined NT Legal Aid in April 2021. The financial counselling service operates from the Palmerston office, which does not have any legal practice areas operating from that site. The financial counsellor is able to accept referrals from all legal practice areas within NT Legal Aid and all regional offices. To date referrals have predominantly been from the Domestic
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