Reforms to the on-the-spot fines system in NSW will make a significant difference to the lives of people who face disadvantage, according to the Homeless Persons’ Legal Service (HPLS) Co-ordinator, Julie Hourigan Ruse.
‘The most radical reform will enable individuals to apply to the State Debt Recovery Office to participate in a Work and Development Order (WDO) that allows them to pay their fines in ways other than with money.
‘This may be done, for example, through volunteer work with an approved organisation, participation in approved medical or mental health treatment programs or participation in education and/or vocational course.’
In a paper delivered at the National Homeless Conference in Brisbane this month, Ms Hourigan Ruse said a two-year trial of WDOs is underway.
She said WDOs are particularly relevant for people who have a mental illness, intellectual disability or cognitive impairment; who suffer from acute economic hardship; or who are homeless.
‘HPLS worked with the NSW Attorney General?s Department and a number of other government agencies and non-government organisations to write the guidelines that underpin this two-year trial,’ Ms Hourigan Ruse said.
‘The introduction of the Work and Development Order scheme proves that if Government has the will, then the community sector can drive systemic change to make a positive impact on people who already live on society?s margins.’
The Homeless Persons’ Legal Service (HPLS) is a joint initiative of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and the Public Interest Law Clearing House (PILCH) NSW. PIAC receives funding from the NSW Attorney General, the Hon John Hatzistergos MLC, through the NSW Public Purpose Fund to operate the Service.