The early intervention unit will be established within Victoria Legal Aid and is expected to commence in 2018.
According to a statement released by the group, the “first-time trial of an early intervention unit is one of 36 actions aimed at Victorian children, young people, parents and carers benefitting from legal help that is more effective, high quality and as widely available as possible”.
It noted that the actions follow an extensive review of child protection legal services and consultation with others who work in child protection, and with young people, parents and carers.
“Young people and parents told us that they want greater levels of legal and non-legal support before, during and after the court process. They want more help understanding the system and accessing the supports they need to keep children safe,” said executive director of family, youth and children’s law Nicole Rich.
“The unit will be made up of non-legal advocates who will support families to deal with matters before they need to go to court.’
Ms Rich noted that the pilot is a necessity as it has been discovered that around one-third of child protection cases which go to court involve concerns that do not require the child to be immediately removed from the home.
“Concerns around general hygiene and parenting skills, for example, could be dealt with effectively and much earlier, without going to court where the environment is pressured,” she said.
“Lawyers will continue to play an important role in advancing the best interests of children. They ensure that children, young people, parents and others affected by the system understand what is happening, are supported to have a say in what happens to them, and are treated fairly and according to the law.”