10 – Simplified grants assessment process

10 – Simplified grants assessment process

The simplified grants assessment process simplifies the process of assessing a request for a grant of legal assistance without compromising Victoria Legal Aid's (VLA’s) statutory obligations to provide legal assistance or the Legal Aid Fund. It allows VLA to work in partnership with lawyers and to achieve faster outcomes more cost-effectively.

The simplified grants assessment process has been in place since 2003. It applies only to applications for grants of legal assistance in specific areas of law. In addition, the lawyer through whom the person applies must be either:

  • a VLA in-house lawyer
  • a private lawyer from a law firm which is a member of a relevant section 29A practitioner panel
  • a lawyer from a community legal centre which is a member of a relevant section 29A practitioner panel.

When is the simplified grants assessment process used?

VLA uses the simplified grants assessment process to process an application for a grant of legal assistance if:

See also:

Submitting an application through the simplified grants assessment process

Applications for a grant of legal assistance in any of the circumstances listed above must be made using the simplified grants process via ATLAS.

Significance of the simplified grants assessment process

The main significance of the simplified grants assessment process is that the lawyer of the person applying has the ability to recommend to VLA that:

VLA will accept the recommendations made by the person’s lawyer, unless there are compelling reasons to do otherwise. For example, an application for a grant of legal assistance may be outside the jurisdiction, such as legal assistance sought from a NSW applicant with proceedings issued in NSW.

How simplified applications are assessed

VLA assesses the application based on the lawyer’s recommendation and certification of documentary proofs of means (and, in some cases, based on other documents as well).

If the application meets the means test VLA will usually allow a grant of legal assistance, if the lawyer recommends assistance be granted.

Record-keeping requirements

Lawyers who use the simplified grants assessment process are responsible for maintaining a casework file for each legally assisted matter which:

  • contains all relevant documents
  • reflects accurately the work the lawyer does in the matter (for example, a file note of attendance at a contest mention or negotiations)
  • contains clear notes of all recommendations the lawyer makes to VLA and the reasons for them.

See Compliance reviews for more information about compliance and reporting procedures.

VLA may later review the lawyer’s files

If VLA makes a grant of legal assistance to a person whose application was processed through the simplified grants assessment process, then VLA may later check the lawyer’s case file to ensure that:

  • the lawyer has complied with VLA’s record-keeping requirements
  • the file supports VLA’s decision to provide a grant of assistance.

See Compliance reviews for more information about compliance and reporting procedures.