Women’s Legal Service Queensland (WLSQ) is expanding its legal helpline to cater for a 40 per cent rise in demand.
Drawing on government funding and private donations, the staff working on the state-wide helpline will be doubled and call volume data will be monitored to increase efficiency.
WLSQ provides free legal help to Queensland women and their children who experience domestic violence and complex family law matters.
In an evaluation conducted this year, WLSQ found that 95 per cent of calls made to the helpline went unanswered.
“Currently we are only able to help about one in 10 women who seek help through the various programs of the service including our helpline,” said Natalie Davidson, who organises fundraising at WLSQ.
In response, WLSQ has developed a new helpline, which will start in January 2016 with expanded operating hours from 9am to 3pm, Monday to Friday. “That's when the data suggests the majority of women are contacting our service for help,” said Ms Davidson.
When women call the helpline, they will reach two staff members who have been skilled up to make initial assessments. Clients can then be referred to one of WLSQ’s 140 volunteer family lawyers who can offer advice.
“We estimate that we will be able to answer 700 per cent more calls from women [with the new helpline],” said Ms Davidson. “It will be thousands of women who will actually receive help from Women’s Legal Service, which is very exciting.”
In addition, new technology around the helpline will provide daily data around who has called, the number of missed calls, where people are calling from and the peak demand times.
“So we can really have a better understanding about the unmet need and adjustments that can be made,” explained Ms Davidson.
The helpline will cost $200,000 each year and will be funded by government grants and community fundraisers.
This week WLSQ raised $85,000 through its annual White Ribbon Day fundraiser breakfast at the Supreme Court (pictured). “[This] means we can definitely start the helpline next year,” said Ms Davidson.
The sold-out event was attended by a group of around 450 judges, barristers, top-tier law firms and members of parliament and academics.
“We literally clear out the foyer of level three of the Supreme Court, we transform it into a beautiful events space,” said Ms Davidson. “The event actually sells out two days after the ticket goes on sale.”