The research, conducted by Deloitte Access Economics for the Public Interest Law Clearing House (PilchConnect) in Victoria, is the first to value the free legal service by measuring the financial worth of the legal advice offered and the public savings through reduced strain on healthcare and social services.
PilchConnect helps not-for-profit (NFP) organisations which in turn assists marginalised and disadvantaged people. The report shows that the economic contribution of PilchConnect’s legal services in 2010-11 was approximately $4.3 million. This was achieved on a budget of under $600,000 and a staff of just four lawyers.
Timely and practical assistance given by way of web-based information and telephone advice from in-house lawyers often prevents issues becoming time consuming and costly legal matters. This makes a difference to the number of people who can receive help from the organisation, and makes it more likely groups will attract and retain members and volunteers (including board members).
By increasing efficiency within NFP organisations, the report estimates that PilchConnect will allow approximately 3,500 additional client services to be provided by these organisations over the next three years.
This confirms the research conducted by the Productivity Commission in 2010. In its report into the contribution of Australia’s NFP sector, the Commission recommended governments support ‘intermediaries’ (organisations that provide support services to the third sector) to improve the capacity of NFPs.
The report states, “the PilchConnect program was considered to make a sustainable and pervasive contribution to the Victorian NFP sector – thereby leading to better social outcomes for the community.”
PilchConnect Manager Sue Woodward said “This research shows that the value of the service goes beyond the hours we spend on the phones, providing training and providing legal advice to community organisations; there are broader economic benefits.
“It’s estimated that 3,500 additional client services were provided to Victorians because these organisations spent less time worrying about legal issues and more time on their core work.
“Healthcare costs have been reduced, there are savings to the justice system and social service payments are lower.”
Third Sector acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands where we live, learn and work. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging.