Reducing homelessness: scheme helps 50 000 people out of debt

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Related Project: Homelessness, Homepage

March 13, 2019

PIAC is delighted to note the success of the Work Development Order Scheme in reducing the impact of fines on people who are financially vulnerable.

The scheme, adopted in NSW in 2011, has now seen 63,346 participants. The program allows people facing homelessness or who have other vulnerabilities to pay pay off outstanding fines through activities including volunteer work and engagement in treatment.

Since the scheme began, more than 102,000 WDOs have been approved, resolving $124,756 million in fines, according to Legal Aid NSW, with $35 million cleared in the last year alone.

‘Fines and debt are common problems for the people we help through the Homeless Persons’ Legal Service,’ said HPLS Managing Solicitor Roslyn Cook.

‘The Work Development Orders (WDO) is a really important mechanism for many of our clients, and it has helped people facing homelessness to acquire skills, work experience and educational opportunities while reducing an otherwise crippling debt. It has been wondeful to see the success of the scheme, thanks to the work of Legal Aid NSW and Revenue NSW in its implementation.’

‘When people are placed on WDOs, they pay their fines through a range of activities such as drug and alcohol treatment; education; vocational courses; financial or other counselling; mental health treatment; mentoring programs or voluntary work.’

‘We would love to see the scheme extended to other forms of Government debt, particularly for debts owed to Housing NSW and social housing providers.’

PIAC’s CEO, Jonathon Hunyor, said that ‘the success of the WDO scheme is a fantastic example of how an organisation like PIAC can have a broader impact on our community,’ said Jonathon Hunyor.

HPLS first recommended the WDO program in its 2006 report, Not such a Fine Thing. This recommendation was followed by a 2011 supplementary submission, Still Not Such a Fine Thing, to the NSW Law Reform Commission Inquiry Into Penalty Notices. The scheme was then introduced in July 2011.

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