Most community legal centres in NSW receive funding from both the Commonwealth and State Governments, although the amounts they receive from each vary enormously. There is no ratio or obvious connection between the amounts centres receive from different levels of government. Some community legal centres receive funding only from the Commonwealth and some receive funding only from the state government. One community legal centre member organisation receives no government funding at all.
Most Commonwealth and State Government funding for community legal centres is funnelled through the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services (NPA). The NPA sets out the minimum contributions of the Commonwealth and States and Territories over the life of the agreement. The current NPA expires June 2020, although the Commonwealth budget 2019 committed funding for a future NPA (in fact, a slight increase on current funding). The NSW Government has committed State community legal centre funding to June 2022.
Collectively, NSW community legal centres receive around $12m per year from the Commonwealth and around $14m from the NSW Government. Under the NPA, the Commonwealth provides its funding for NSW centres to the State Department of Family and Community Services and Justice, which has delegated responsibility for the administration of this funding to Legal Aid NSW. Legal Aid NSW then transfers funding directly to individual community legal centres subject to a service agreement (contract).
Some centres receive funding from other Commonwealth and State Government departments as well. For example, several community legal centres receive funding from the Office of Fair Trading in the NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation. Grants from other departments are subject to different contracts. Some centres receive separate funding from the NSW Public Purpose Fund (PPF), funding for which is generated by the interest from solicitors’ trust accounts. It used to be the case that many centres received funding directly from the PPF, however most of this funding is now rolled into State funding.
Most community legal centres also receive what is known as SACS ERO. This is comprised of contributions from both the Commonwealth and State to enable community legal centres to increase salaries in line with Commonwealth industrial awards. From 2019 the Commonwealth has agreed to roll its share of SACS ERO into general funding. This helps secure this funding into the future and Community Legal Centres NSW has asked the NSW Government to do the same in relation to the State contribution.
The State allocations to community legal centres have been settled for the next three years (that is, to end June 2022), following a tender process. All centres will be guaranteed State income for this period. For an overview of how State funding will be distributed to centres from July 2019, together with information on allocations from 2016-17 to 2018-19, click here.
From July 2019, community legal centres will receive their funding subject to a new kind of NSW Service Agreement (details here).
This agreement has been adopted by the NSW Government. This generic version has been adapted for application to community legal centres via the incorporation of schedules. These schedules are currently being finalised.
The schedules include the planning and reporting template that all centres must use. The template is currently being finalised.
The community legal centre sector has traditionally been required to report on outputs or activities. Community Legal Centres NSW is encouraging funders to consider the impacts of our work rather than our outputs. To assist, Community Legal Centres NSW is developing an Impact Evaluation Framework to help centres measure the effect (or impacts) of their work.