The Domestic Violence Unit (DVU) of Legal Aid New South Wales (Legal Aid NSW) began operation in January 2016. It was established in response to an identified need for a more integrated and intensive response to the complex legal and non-legal needs of people experiencing or at serious risk of domestic and/or family violence (DFV). The DVU includes both lawyers and dedicated social workers and provides free legal advice, assistance, advocacy, ongoing litigation casework and social work support to help people experiencing DFV to stay safe and rebuild their lives. The DVU operates duty lawyer services at four local courts, two legal advice clinics, a telephone/email/webcam legal advice line and social work support services, and provides grants of legal aid.
Working with other Legal Aid NSW and human services, the DVU aims to provide accessible services to people experiencing DFV, as well as appropriate and proportionate assistance to clients according to their level of legal and non-legal need, vulnerability and capability, including holistic services and case management as needed.
The Law and Justice Foundation of NSW (the Foundation) was engaged by Legal Aid NSW to articulate a program logic for the DVU that would detail the DVU’s aims, nature and desired outputs and outcomes. Using this program logic as a basis, the Foundation was engaged to conduct a process evaluation of the DVU’s first nine months of operation, to examine its early implementation and inform any refinements to improve its operation.
The Foundation also developed an evaluation framework that included a plan for the ongoing monitoring of the DVU, as well as a broad plan for an outcome evaluation to assess the DVU’s impact on client outcomes, which was to be conducted at a later date. This report focuses on the process evaluation of the DVU, but also presents the program logic and broad evaluation framework.