Action highlights of the Child Protection Legal Aid Services Review

Action highlights of the Child Protection Legal Aid Services Review

A clear and shared understanding of why we assist in child protection matters will help us work together for better justice.

These are some of the ways we will be working together to ensure that the Victorian child protection system advances children’s best interests.

We will be piloting a health justice partnership to help women who are pregnant, providing more support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families, boosting child protection legal support in regional Victoria, and trialling a new early intervention unit of non-legal advocates.     

1. A new early intervention unit

Early intervention unit. A new pilot helping families earlier to get better outcomes and avoid going to court.

We will help clients earlier by piloting a new early intervention unit. This will be established within Victoria Legal Aid, with non-legal advocates who will support young people and families to deal with matters before they need to go to court. 

Why are we doing this?

Young people and parents told us that they want greater levels of legal and non-legal support before, during and after the court process. An example they gave was the coordination of referrals to support services.

We hope that helping clients earlier will result in better outcomes for the child and their family.

We also hope it will reduce the number of cases that need to go to the Children’s Court of Victoria. Around one-third of cases that go to court involve concerns that do not require the immediate removal of the child. These matters may be able to be dealt with effectively without going to court.

See Actions 7 and 8 in the Final report under timely intervention.

Also read New early intervention pilot part of widespread changes to child protection legal help in Victoria (media release)

2. A health justice partnership for women who are pregnant

New early advice an legal representation pilot for women at risk of having their child removed shortly after birth.

We will pilot a health justice partnership to provide early advice and legal representation to pregnant women who are at risk of having their child removed from them shortly after birth. 

Why are we doing this?

Timely support is important for people in the child protection system.

Some women are more likely to face child protection involvement following the birth of their child. Many do not understand that their child may be removed from them. Some will have been involved with the child protection system as a child or young person, or may still be.  

While there has been an increase in the number of unborn reports, there is currently no service that specifically provides advice about child protection issues to pregnant women.

See Action 9 in the Final report under timely intervention.

3. More support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families

New funding for legal help so that siblings and parents of an Aboriginal child placed in out-of-home care can maintain contact with that child. More funding to the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and the Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal

We will provide more support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families by:

  • providing new funding for legal help so that siblings and parents of an Aboriginal child placed in out-of-home care can maintain contact 
  • increasing funding for the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and the Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service. This will enable these specialist service providers to deal with more child protection matters
  • requiring all child protection lawyers to undertake regular cultural awareness training.

Why are we doing this?

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, young people and families are greatly over-represented in the child protection system.

They have experienced poor outcomes from the system and are removed at much higher rates that other children.  

All agencies in the child protection system need to acknowledge how we have failed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, young people and families. We need to work together to better support and maintain cultural connections and improve outcomes.

See Actions 11 and 12 in the Final report under timely intervention.

4. Boosting support in regional Victoria

Boosting support in regional Victoria

We are redesigning the way we do things so that all Victorians get the same access to legal services. We will do this by:

  • working with local community legal centres to identify areas that need more services
  • developing regional child protection networks with agencies and lawyers who do legal aid work
  • increasing training for, and the number of, lawyers doing child protection work in regional areas 
  • improving duty lawyer services and the way child protection matters are allocated to lawyers.

Why are we doing this?

The need to do things differently is particularly acute in regional Victoria. Around a quarter of Victorian children live in the regions but they account for almost half of all new child protection applications to the Children’s Court, and children from regional Victoria are twice more likely to be in out-of-home care.

The number of child protection cases in regional areas has been growing, but there aren’t enough lawyers, particularly in places like Horsham, Warrnambool, East Gippsland and Mildura.

See Actions 18 and 19 in the Final report under quality and support, Actions 31 and 32 under client access and Actions 33 and 34 under improving processes.

Also read Action on child protection legal services coming to regional Victoria (media release)

Read our final report

For more information about these actions, download the Child Protection Legal Aid Services Review final report (docx, 7.95 MB) or read Actions from the Child Protection Legal Aid Services Review

Nicole Rich on why child protection is a focus

Also read Explainer – Why children, young people, parents and carers need earlier help with child protection.