This report has been prepared in accordance with all relevant legislation. See the Disclosure index that identifies our compliance with statutory disclosure requirements.

Complaints

We have taken a proactive approach to complaints. We believe they provide invaluable feedback about the quality of our services, and that this in turn can help us to improve. 

Our website explains what people can expect from us when they use our services. It also explains how to make a complaint if we do not meet expectations. Anyone can make a complaint about services provided by our staff, about private practitioners representing clients under a grant of legal assistance, or about our services more generally.

We aim to resolve complaints quickly, fairly and without prejudice. We have a complaints process that encourages staff and private practitioners to take responsibility for complaints and to resolve them when they first arise.

This year we received 741 complaints and enquiries compared to 681 in 2013–14 (up by 8%).

In 74% of cases we met our target of acknowledging a complaint within 48 hours and reaching a resolution within 28 days.

Read about the nature of our complaints.

Government advertising expenditure

The disclosure threshold for government advertising expenditure is more than $150,000 (exclusive of GST). Our total advertising expenditure during 2014–15 was not more than $150,000 (exclusive of GST).

Consultancy expenditure

In 2014–15, we engaged:

  • 18 consultancies where the total fees payable to the consultants were greater than $10,000
  • four consultancies where the total fees payable to the consultants were less than $10,000.

Read about the details of individual consultancies.

Contracts

There were zero contracts entered into during the financial year that require specific disclosure as they were all less than $10 million in value.

Information privacy

We are committed to protecting the personal privacy of our clients and the people we help. We only collect, use or disclose personal information where it is necessary to perform legal aid functions or where required by law.

We comply with the Privacy and Data Protection Act Act (Vic) and our policies and processes for dealing with personal information comply with the Information Privacy Principles.

We received one notification of a complaint lodged with the Commissioner for Privavy and Data Protection this year, which alleged that we failed to comply with our privacy obligations. This complaint was resolved by the commissioner dismissing the complaint.

See Victoria Legal Aid's website for information about how we handle personal information.

Freedom of information

The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic) gives members of the public the right to apply for access to information held by us. It applies to the documents we create, as well as those created by other organisations in our possession.

We received 15 applications for documents this year. Read more about our freedom of information applications.

Victorian Ombudsman 

Members of the public can complain to the Victorian Ombudsman about administrative actions taken by Victoria Legal Aid, if we cannot resolve their complaint directly. 

The Victorian Ombudsman notified us of five complaints lodged with her office this year. All were resolved informally by providing the Ombudsman with further information. 

Compliance with the Building Act 1993 (Vic)

We are exempt from notifying our compliance with the building and maintenance provisions of the Building Act because we do not own any buildings.

We undertook minor upgrades at our Bendigo office and security upgrades to our offices in Broadmeadows, Ballarat and Dandenong.

We completed an expression of interest using the Victorian Government Tenders website to establish a panel of builders to undertake future works and ensure cost effectiveness. We then completed a tender for the Frankston office refurbishment, with works due to be completed in August 2015.

The Frankston office upgrade will guide our future office design. It optimises work practices and staff interaction, allows for a greater number of staff to service the region, and provides a secure client interaction and meeting area. It also includes an external ramp entry and accessible public toilet, compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act 2006.

Compliance with the Disability Act 2006

Our Disability Action Plan 2012–2014 complies with the Disability Act 2006 (Vic) and includes clear timeframes, accountabilities and performance measures. The plan was rolled over for the 2014–15 period. Key activities under the plan this year included:

  • advocacy for systemic change – ran Patient X, a Supreme Court case which clarified the impact of decisions of the Mental Health Tribunal and developed a comprehensive strategic response to the new Mental Health Act 2014
  • improving the provision of services – established the Independent Mental Health Advocacy service and ran legal professional training sessions for our lawyers on working with clients with a mental illness and with cognitive and neurological disabilities
  • improving access to legal information and education – launched two modules of Learning the law: Fines and driving
  • making our buildings and facilities more accessible.

Industry Participation Policy

We are required to apply the Victorian Industry Participation Policy in all tenders over $3 million in metropolitan Melbourne and $1 million in regional Victoria. No tenders were awarded over these amounts.

National Competition Policy

We comply with the requirements of the National Competition Policy, where relevant, to ensure competitive neutrality where any services compete, or potentially compete, with the private sector.

Compliance with the Protected Disclosure Act 2012 (Vic)

The Protected Disclosure Act encourages and assists people in making disclosures of improper conduct by public officers and public bodies. The Act provides protection to people who make disclosures in accordance with the Act and establishes a system for the matters disclosed to be investigated and rectifying action to be taken. Read more about reporting protected disclosures.

Compliance with the Carers Recognition Act 2012

We are exempt from reporting on our compliance under the Act because Victoria Legal Aid is not a public service care agency or a funded care agency. As such, the Act does not apply.

Risk management

Our risk management framework is consistent with the Victorian Government Risk Management Framework, the Australian/New Zealand risk management standard AS/NZS ISO31000:2009 and the directions issued under the Financial Management Act 1994 (Vic). Read more about how we manage risk.

Additional information available on request

In compliance with the requirements of the Standing Directions of the Minister for Finance, information relating to the 2014–15 reporting period may also be made available to ministers, members of parliament and the public on request and subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. Read more.