Taxpayer legal aid bill jumps by $26 million
The amount of taxpayer money going to legal aid providers jumped 19% in the year to June 30, new figures from the Legal Services Agency reveal.
The Legal Services Agency paid $161.7 million (GST exclusive) to legal aid providers, in the year, up from $136 million last year.
About 67,000 people accessed legal services from about 89,000 legal aid grants, a 5% increase on the previous year.
In total the agency received about 100,000 applications for legal aid during the year.
From July 1, 2009, to June 30 this year legally aided people repaid $9.4 million in contributions and repayments.
The Legal Services Agency has posted a list of payments to firms for legal aid services on its website.
These payments, which are GST inclusive, include the fees of all listed providers, including those claimed on behalf of other listed providers, and may not have been made directly to any individual named.
A shake-up of the legal aid system is on the way with a Legal Services Bill passing its first reading in Parliament last week.
It follows a damning report by Dame Margaret Bazley, released last year, which found many lawyers were delivering poor service and gaming the system to make money.
The bill will disestablish the Legal Services Agency and make the Secretary for Justice responsible for administering the system.
It will establish a Legal Services Commissioner as an independent statutory officer, within the ministry, who will be responsible for deciding grants for legal aid and the management of cases.
The Legal Aid Review Panel, which currently reviews decisions of the agency, will be replaced by a Legal Aid Tribunal.
There will be a new quality assurance framework, which has been developed in consultation with the Law Society to ensure all legal aid lawyers have the skills to do the job, and that complaints are addressed.