Fines have been receiving a lot of media attention in recent weeks.
Under a new Fines Victoria social justice initiative called the Work and Development Permit (WDP) Scheme, health practitioners and organisations are helping vulnerable community members ‘work off’ their unpaid fines by becoming ‘sponsors’ and reporting client participation in treatment, courses and other activities.
This WDP Scheme is one of the first of its kind in the world. Peninsula Community Legal Centre (PCLC) has already assisted many psychologists and not-for-profit organisations get on-board.
PCLC’s infringements clients have an average of over $12,000 in unpaid fines debt. With unpaid fines becoming an increasing problem in the community, PCLC is calling on more health practitioners and organisations to become sponsors.
‘Becoming a sponsor is particularly important given the devastating psychological and financial toll COVID-19 is having on many people’s lives and the substantial financial and emotional costs associated with receiving fines.’ said Jackie Galloway, CEO at PCLC.
‘For most, unpaid fines are an inconvenience but for those eligible for this Scheme the impact is devastating’, she said.
‘Clients can stop opening their letters as their debt escalates and their mental health and addiction issues can spiral downwards,’ said Laura Sanderson, WDP Project Worker at PCLC.
‘We’ve seen clients work off their fines by engaging in activities that range from getting mental health treatment, studying for the first time at a community college, volunteering at their local church and getting support for their drug and alcohol problems. Participation in the WDP Scheme is often life-changing for our clients.’
‘For sponsors, the WDP Scheme involves a simple, three-step process where the sponsor gets accredited by Fines Victoria, applies for a WDP on behalf of the client and then reports participation. This is all done using the Fines Victoria WDP portal,’ she said.
‘Sponsors must meet certain recording keeping obligations but sponsors have assured PCLC that the application process takes no more than 5 minutes and the reporting process takes no more than 2 minutes per client,’ stated Laura.
The equivalent program in NSW recently won a 2019 Premiers Award in the category of ‘tackling longstanding social challenges’.
Jackie Galloway praised the WDP Scheme as ‘a more financially viable option than pouring government resources into failed attempts at collecting debt from people with no assets or financial stability.’
‘The WDP Scheme is an engagement incentive and referral pathway for sponsors and a therapeutic mechanism used to reduce reoffending behaviour and empower vulnerable people,’ she said.
More than $5,000,000 worth of fines has been loaded onto the WDP Scheme since it first began in mid-2017.
PCLC has received funding from the Legal Services Board to employ a Project Worker who has been helping health practitioners and sponsors understand and integrate with the WDP Scheme.
For health practitioners and organisations interested in knowing more, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
PCLC is a not-for-profit organisation that provides free legal assistance to those most vulnerable within Melbourne’s southern region.
DATE: 21st May 2020
CONTACT: Nicola Barrans, Senior Manager – Development & Engagement e: email@example.com
PENINSULA COMMUNITY LEGAL CENTRE INC.