The Commission acknowledges the financial and other support provided by the Governments of South Australia and Australia. Funding (around $34m per annum, excluding separate funding for expensive cases) for the Commission's activities comes from the following main sources:
Grants from Governments account for approximately 80% of the Commission's total annual income. The Commonwealth Government provides funding for Commonwealth related legal matters and specific Commonwealth projects and the State Government funds for State related legal matters and specific State projects.
The National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services was entered into between the Commonwealth of Australia and States and Territories, effective from 1 July 2015. Pursuant to that Agreement, the Commonwealth Government committed funding to South Australia for the next four financial years until 30 June 2020. The Commonwealth Government provided funding of $16,194,000 in 2014-15.
The State Government funds through the normal State budget process and provided State funding of $17,750,000 in 2014-15. State funding is indexed annually and each year the Legal Services Commission submits State funding bids for specific State related projects.
The Commission is separately funded by the State Government for approved matters that exceed the Legal Services Commission's cap on funding. The matters are funded pursuant to the Criminal Law (Legal Representation) Act 2001. The Commission enters into an approved case management agreement with the State Government for these cases.
Pursuant to the Legal Practitioner's Act (SA) 1981, the Commission receives each year a percentage of interest earned on the following accounts maintained under the Act:
The Statutory Interest Account and the Trust Account. The percentage of interest earned is prescribed in the Act. The Commission may also receive a percentage of the excess funds held in the Legal Practitioner's Guarantee fund, at the discretion of the State Attorney- General and the Law Society of South Australia.The funds generated pursuant to the Legal Practitioner's Act are considered to be State funds for the purpose of reporting State and Commonwealth income.
The cash amount received from the Legal Practitioner's Act funding in 2014-15 was $2,854,000.
Legal aid commissions recoup as much of the expense of providing legal aid, as is possible, from the people who receive a service (within the limit of what the person can afford to pay). The Commission requires people who are granted legal aid to pay initial contributions towards their legal expense. The contribution is determined by reference to the applicant's means and the expected cost of the services the Commission is to provide. The contribution is applicable whether the matter is conducted by an in-house lawyer or conducted by an external lawyer (private practitioner). Some people are required to make further or final payments if the legal expenses reach a certain level, or make full repayment of their legal costs. Where the person (or any person giving them financial support) has real estate, the repayment is secured by the Commission taking a statutory charge over the real estate of the person. The charge is exercised on the sale or disposal of the property by the owner. Statutory charges are not imposed if legal costs incurred are less than $2,200. The Commission also recovers legal costs where there has been a court order awarding costs in litigation.
The Commission generates interest from funding received from Governments and other sources. These funds are invested with the South Australian Financing Authority (SAFA) The Commission sells various kits and publications and provides educational courses, some of the courses attract a consultation fee In other instances the Commission provides submissions to external bodies (e.g. the Law Foundation) to receive funding to provide educational services where a need is perceived. A telephone legal advice line is provided to the Public sector association union members and funding is provided by the Public sector association for this purpose. The Commission provides other services on a project basis from time to time, when specific funding is provided.