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Wednesday 29 May 2019

Work and Development Permits Scheme

By: Laura Sanderson

Project Summary

What is a WDP?

The Work and Development Permits (WDP) Scheme is an initiative provided by the Department of Justice and Community Safety.

The WDP Scheme allows eligible people (those suffering from homelessness, family violence, mental illness, intellectual disability, addiction or acute financial hardship) to ‘work off’ their fines instead of paying money out of their pocket.

Health practitioners and organisations can become accredited sponsors and provide activities for their client to clear their debt.

What are the benefits of the WDP?

Some effects of the Scheme include the following –

  • Sponsors are able to provide clients with an incentive for them to attend appointments;
  • Clients are provided with an avenue to work off their fine debt relatively quickly;
  • Clients are able to put their fine debt on hold once the WDP has been applied for; and
  • Clients have the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions and become a more engaged member of the community.

Fine problem

Fine debt is a significant problem in the Victorian justice system.The Victorian Magistrates Court noted the pressure infringements put on the courts in the recent Royal Commission into Family Violence.As their time and resources are taken up dealing with fine debt, they are less able to attend to far more serious issues such as family violence.

Also, over half of the infringements that went to the Infringements Court and Criminal Justice System relate to the unauthorised use of privately owned toll roads.In Victoria, private toll debt is criminalised, unlike other Australian jurisdictions.Unfortunately, people can resort to prison sentences to reduce their fine debt.

The Southern Victorian region is particularly affected by fines.In the 2015-15 financial year, five municipalities in the Southern region ranked in the top 11 Local Government Areas recording the highest outstanding infringement warrant debt in the state.

Project work

The Peninsula Community Legal Centre (PCLC) has received funding from the Legal Services Board to integrate the WDP into the Southern Victorian region.

Unlike the NSW equivalent, the Victorian WDP had not initially been well resourced and many health and community providers do not know about this Scheme.

This PCLC project focuses on –

  • Educating clients and health and community providers about the WDP Scheme;
  • Developing a network of WDP sponsors in the Southern region for PCLC to refer its clients to;
  • Increasing accessibility of PCLC’s Fines Clinic to clients; and
  • Advocating for legislative and policy reform for a fairer, more just infringement system.

Project so far

PCLC has been working with health and community providers in the region who are interested in becoming an accredited sponsor.Articles have also been published to spread the awareness of the WDP Scheme.

PCLC is developing a ‘toolkit’ for clients, sponsors and other community legal centres is which is intended to make the WDP process easier to understand and more accessible.

If you or your organisation is interested in knowing more about the WDP Scheme, please get in contact with Laura Sanderson, Project Worker at PCLC.Laura can be contacted via email on lsanderson@pclc.org.au or by phone on (03) 9784 4225.