Homeless To Do Charity Work To Pay Off Fines
28 September 2009 at 3:40 pm
Homeless and disadvantaged people will be able to pay off fines by doing charity work or treatment programs under a scheme launched today by the NSW Government.
The NSW Government has begun a two-year trial to allow disadvantaged people such as the homeless, mentally ill and persons experiencing acute financial hardship to apply for a Work and Development Order from the SDRO.
NSW Attorney General John Hatzistergos says a wide variety of organisations have applied to take part including large charity groups, youths services, drug and alcohol services, neighbourhood centres and mental health service providers from across the State.
He says the trial is strongly backed by many of the state’s key charity groups including The Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul Society and Youth Off the Streets.
The Orders could require a person to undertake voluntary work for approved charities, counselling, drug and alcohol treatment or complete educational, vocational or life skills courses.
Captain Paul Moulds of The Salvation Army’s Oasis Youth Support Network says for far too long young people have been excluded from participating in the community because of the debts and fines they incurred while in crisis or homeless.
He says the new scheme will provide an opportunity for these young people to reconnect with the community and move forward with their lives.
St Vincent de Paul Society’s Chief Executive Officer NSW/ACT, John Picot says they welcomed the opportunity to participate in the scheme.
Father Chris Riley, CEO and Founder, Youth Off The Streets says the first participants in the scheme are showing positive signs of improving their lives.
He says Work and Development Orders have provided an extra incentive for young people to keep regular contact with our Counsellors, giving them the best chance at making a full recovery from their addictions.
Julie Hourigan Ruse, Co-ordinator of the Homeless Persons’ Legal Service says the scheme will help lift the financial burden on many homeless people.
The Work and Development Order scheme was part of a package of reforms to the NSW Fines Act last year designed to assist vulnerable groups in society. The changes were based on recommendations made by the Sentencing Council in its 2009 report on the effectiveness of fines as a sentencing option.
The President of the NSW Law Society, Joe Catanzariti welcomed the decision saying the large number of organisations and youth groups who have expressed interest in taking part in the trial indicates the size of this problem.
He says if the trial is successful the Law Society would encourage the Government to expand the program so that a grteater cross section of the community can benefit.