NPA and ILAP effectiveness under review
The Law Council has provided feedback on the terms of reference for the upcoming reviews of the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Services (NPA) and the Indigenous Legal Assistance Program (ILAP), the two key funding programs for Legal Aid Commissions, Community Legal Centres and Aboriginal Legal Services.
The Law Council made submissions on the intended scope of the reviews, the statement of requirements for the independent reviewers and the program logic of the reviews. The Law Council intends to make further submissions to the review processes once they commence later in the year.
One of the main objectives of each review is to assess the effectiveness, efficiency and appropriateness of the NPA and ILAP, including how the operation of the agreements have affected progress towards meeting objectives and outcomes. However, the consultation papers have been clear in stating that it is beyond the scope of the reviews undertake new research or in-depth analysis of unmet legal need.
In its submissions, the Law Council queried the ability for an assessment to be undertaken as to the effectiveness of each program without a thorough examination or understanding of legal need.
The Law Council has therefore suggested that it would be appropriate for the reviews to include some assumptions as to the current and future unmet legal need and funding available to meet that need, based on a number of recent reports focussed on levels legal need in Australia, including the Law Council’s upcoming Justice Project.
The Law Council further noted that in order to prevent the further deterioration of Australia’s legal system due to under-funding of legal aid and to achieve the efficiency savings possible through properly funded legal aid, that the Australian Government must match the contributions of states and territories and return legal aid funding to a 50-50 share.