Fines debt – a real problem
Fines debt is money owed through incurring infringements such as public transport, toll, council and traffic fines.
The impact this debt has on vulnerable people in our catchment is devastating. Peninsula Community Legal Centre’s (PCLC) infringement clients have an average of over $11,000 in fines debt.
In the past, we have had limited options to help clients deal with their fines debt. However, there is now a Victorian government initiative that could change this.
PCLC has recognised the potential of this Scheme and has recently received funding from the Legal Services Board to integrate the Work and Development (WDP) Scheme into Melbourne’s southern region.
What is a WDP?
WDPs allow vulnerable people (those experiencing addiction, mental illness or cognitive impairment, homelessness, family violence or acute financial hardship) to ‘work off’ their fines debt rather than pay money out of their pocket.
Health practitioners and organisations can become accredited sponsors by applying online with Fines Victoria. They can then provide activities so that the time a client spends engaged with their service they can clear their fines debt.
Different ‘activities’ attract different work off rates.
For example, clients can engage in a treatment given by a health practitioner or drug and alcohol counselling and work off $1,090.45 (6.6 penalty units) per month of their fines debt.
Clients can also engage in unpaid work, a course, counselling (incl. financial) or a mentoring program (under 25 years) and work off $49.57 (0.3 penalty units) per hour of their fines debt.
Some effects of this Scheme include:
- Vulnerable clients are able to address their legal and health needs in a preventative, therapeutic way;
- Clients report feeling empowered when they take responsibility for their fines debt; and
- Sponsors are able to provide an additional incentive for clients to attend their appointments.
Sam has bipolar and gets a Disability Support Pension. He has $10,000 in unpaid fines. Sam gets a referral from his doctor and is put on a mental health care plan. Sam sees a psychologist once a month and reduces his fines debt by $1,090.45 per month. Sam eliminated his fines debt in 10 months.
PCLC is seeking to work with health practitioners and organisations so that mutual clients can receive a ‘wrap around’ service.
Please contact Laura (Project Worker at PCLC) on 9873 3600 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in becoming a sponsor.
Additional information can be found on the WDP at https://pclc.org.au/get-information/information-about-us/.
You can also contact the Fines Victoria WDP Operation Team on 1300 323 483.