Government confirms ‘pay-off’ for unpaid fines

A pilot program allowing homeless and other disadvantaged
people to “pay off” outstanding fines through volunteer work has received a new
lease of life.

The NSW Attorney General announced on 30 June that that Work
and Development Orders (WDO) program is to be expanded and made permanent.

The Senior Solicitor with the Homeless Persons’ Legal Service
(HPLS), Ben Fogarty, said the program makes a huge difference to people who are
homeless and others who face disadvantage, including people with mental illness
and people with drug or alcohol addictions.

‘We applaud the NSW Government on this decision.

‘Fines and debt are common problems experienced by our
clients. Often they are a major factor in reinforcing disadvantage,’ Mr Fogarty

‘The WDO program helps extremely disadvantaged people
acquire skills, work experience and educational opportunities while reducing an
otherwise crippling debt.’

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 HPLS report and submission drew attention to the fact
that the fines system significantly disadvantaged people living in poverty,
children and young people, and people who were otherwise socially and economically

Following the release of Not
such a Fine Thing
, the NSW Government implemented a two-year trial of the
WDO program.

The decision to expand the WDO program followed a program
evaluation that showed:

  • More than 700
    people had been approved to do WDOs and reduced $294,000 worth of their fine
    debt. A further $1,933,755 worth of fine debt is now under management through
  • More than 80
    per cent of participants had no further fines or penalties referred for
  • At least 200
    people with mental illness participated.

Photo: Flikr

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