#86 Is fines debt affecting your patient’s mental health?

27 June 2019

When people ignore or can’t afford to pay their fines, their financial situation and mental health can spiral out of control.

On average, infringements clients at Peninsula Community Legal Centre (PCLC) present with over $11,000 in fines debt and 53 per cent of these people report having a mental illness or disability.

In the past, these clients have had limited options for dealing with their fines debt. However, there is now a scheme that has the potential to change the lives of people affected by mental illness and intellectual disorder, addiction, acute financial hardship, homelessness and family violence.

The Work and Development Permit Scheme

The Work and Development Permit (WDP) Scheme is part of a new Victorian Government initiative that provides vulnerable people with a new way to deal with their fines debt.

Health practitioners (doctors, psychologists and nurses) and organisations (including general practices) can become accredited WDP ‘sponsors’ with the approval of the Director, Fines Victoria. Accredited sponsors can then provide eligible patients with activities (for example, a mental health care plan) allowing them to ‘work off’ $1063.85 a month off their fine debt.

Fines Victoria does not dictate how long or frequently an approved activity must be to work off the full $1,063.85 per month.

The WDP Scheme is a straightforward process and the equivalent scheme in NSW has experienced great success. 

PCLC is seeking to work with healthcare professionals so that patients receive a ‘wrap around’ service that meets their legal and health needs. The WDP also provides an additional incentive for patients to attend their appointments.

Sam’s story

Sam has bipolar disorder and gets a Disability Support Pension. He has $12,000 in unpaid fines. Sam sees his doctor once a fortnight and reduces his fine debt by $1,063.85 per month. Sam can eliminate all of his fines debt in 10 months.

Please contact Laura (PCLC Project Worker) on (03) 9784 4225 or lsanderson@pclc.org.au to discuss the WDP Scheme further. Additional information can also be found here.

Alternatively, you can contact the Fines Victoria WDP Team on 1300 323 483 or wdp@justice.vic.gov.au

PCLC is a not-for-profit organisation that provides free legal assistance to those most vulnerable within Melbourne’s southern region. 

This project is generously funded by the Legal Services Board.

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