We are delighted to present the Annual Report for the Peninsula Community Legal Centre for the 2019-20 year.
As we reflect on our work pre and post COVID19, what hasn’t changed is our overarching commitment to our vision of delivering justice to our community. With the advent of the pandemic, we quickly implemented our Business Continuity Plan, and we redefined our services to an intake and response model. This required us to increase our telephone services, modify our court duty services and proactively connect with our clients. We may have been physically distanced from our community but we worked hard to remain socially connected.
The PCLC team rallied to deliver another year of outstanding legal and support services to our community. PCLC assisted 6,844 individuals with the provision of 11,990 activities, this is a 7% increase on the previous year. We bolstered our client services with intensive casework, increased court representation work and enhanced wrap around support services. We boosted our reach in the community, delivering services in a range of health and community settings (pre COVID-19), including a public hospital, youth residential facility, family violence hub and enhanced child & maternal health centres to improve legal and health outcomes for our clients. We welcomed new community partners to deliver collaborative and innovative programs and built on our existing relationships to strengthen and advance our integrated practice model.
A real highlight of our year has been the opening of our new Cranbourne Office, albeit for a short time prior to COVID. With the generous support of the City of Casey, PCLC was able to move to larger premises supporting and increasing our capacity to deliver much needed services in the region. Our new office is located in the busy Casey complex in Cranbourne East. PCLC would like to acknowledge the work of our Project team, Sue Vincent & Hellen Argiriou who did an outstanding job in the office design, management of the project and relocation to the new premises.
We placed great emphasis on our organizational planning this past year, with the development of our new Strategic & Operational Plans. These plans will inform and guide our organisation and service delivery for the next four years.
In response to the prevalence of family violence and related family law issues, PCLC has developed its specialist case work and duty lawyer programs in family law and family violence, offering one of the most comprehensive community legal centre family law and family violence practices in Australia. As the case studies featured in our report highlight the family law and family violence teams are often achieving life changing outcomes for women and children experiencing family violence.
Our family law litigation and duty lawyer work is now firmly embedded into our practice with the confirmation of ongoing funding of our Family Violence to Family Law Continuity Program and news of continued funding of our court based Family Advocacy and Support Service (FASS).
We were pleased to enhance our family violence duty lawyer work, partnering with St.Kilda Legal Service to deliver family violence duty services at the Moorabbin Justice Centre under the Specialist Family Violence Court funding model. Our family violence services were also bolstered with the news that PCLC is funded to deliver the Specialist Family Violence Court duty lawyer services at Frankston Magistrates Court. This welcome funding will allow PCLC to increase its staffing levels and capacity to support those experiencing family violence in a region with high rates of family violence.
Our commitment to creating a culturally safe organization marked the beginning of our reconciliation journey this year. Our vision for reconciliation is an Australia where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are restored to a place of equality, dignity and respect and where they achieve social justice. Our Cultural & Diversity Reference Group have been working on our first Reconciliation Action Plan to assist us to develop culturally appropriate policies and programs to improve access to legal services for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people and to build our organisation and staff’s cultural awareness and competencies . We welcomed the opportunities to build on our relationships and consult with our local Aboriginal & Torres Strait islander organisations and community.
We continue to review the scope of our operations and explore new ways to enhance and improve our services. We continually assess the quality and value of our work, and we review and refine our data to ensure we are meeting our objectives and to ensure our services are targeted to those most in need. As part of our strategy, we completed bi annual casework client surveys measuring client need and complexities. The survey of 161 cases clearly demonstrated that the overwhelming majority of our casework clients have high levels of vulnerability and disadvantage with multiple legal problems. It was evident through the data analysis that our move to holistic and integrated work has been embraced by our team with increased referrals made and improved recognition of non- legal support needs.
The development, implementation, monitoring and review of policy, procedures and associated practices and tools is an ongoing process to which the Centre is committed. We were delighted to meet the primary requirements of the Standards under the National Accreditation Scheme (NAS) for Community Legal Centre’s. We have continued to work across all levels and aspects of the organisation to ensure that we met our obligations, undertaking a comprehensive review of the organisation’s policies and procedures.
We would not be able to deliver our services without the generous support of our funders, Federal, State and Local Governments, pro bono supporters and donors whose support of the organization is integral to our continuing development and sustainability now and into the future.