Article brought to you by Peninsula Community Legal Centre.
Is fines debt affecting your client’s mental health?
When people ignore or can’t afford to pay their fines, their financial situation and mental health can spiral out of control.
On average, Peninsula Community Legal Centre (PCLC) infringements clients present with over $11,000 in fines debt and 53% of these clients report having a mental illness or disability.
In the past, these clients have had limited options for dealing with their fines debt. However, there is now a Scheme that has the potential to change this.
The Work and Development Permit Scheme
The Work and Development Permit (WDP) Scheme is part of a new Victorian government initiative that provides vulnerable clients with a new way to deal with their fines debt.
Health practitioners (doctors, psychologists and nurses) and organisations (including general practices) can become accredited WDP ‘sponsors’ with the approval of the Director, Fines Victoria. Accredited sponsors can then provide eligible clients with activities (for example, a mental health care plan) allowing them to ‘work off’ $1063.85 a month off their fines debt.
Eligible clients include those affected by mental illness or cognitive impairment, addiction, acute financial hardship, homelessness and family violence.
Fines Victoria does not dictate how long or frequently an approved activity must be to work off the full $1,063.85 per month.
The WDP Scheme is a straightforward process and the equivalent scheme in NSW has experienced great success.
PCLC is seeking to work with health care professionals so that mutual clients receive a ‘wrap around’ services that meets their legal and health needs. The WDP also provides 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 sees his mental health nurse once a fortnight and reduces his fines debt by $1,063.85 per month.
In 10 months Sam had eliminated all of his fines debt.
If you are a nurse or psychologist in Melbourne’s southern region, please contact Laura (PCLC Project Worker) on 9784 4225 or firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss the WDP Scheme further. Additional information can also be found at http://pclc.org.au/what-we-do/projects/.
PCLC is a not-for-profit organisation that provides free legal assistance to those most vulnerable within Melbourne’s southern region.
If you are a medical practitioner within Victoria but outside of Melbourne’s southern region, please contact the Fines Victoria WDP Team on 1300 323 4225 or email@example.com to discuss the WDP Scheme further.
This project is generously funded by the Legal Services Board.