This is law for community workers spotlight on the shortcut series podcasts for community and health workers produced by legal aid New South Wales. My name is Pauline, and I'm from the Community Legal Education branch here in legal aid. And we would like to acknowledge that our podcast is recorded on Aboriginal land and pay our respects to elder's past and present always was always will be. Today, our guest is Mitchell. And we're shining the spotlight on the seniors right service New South Wales. Hi, Mitchell, and welcome.
Hi Pauline, and thanks very much for having me today. So my name is Mitchell Harvey. I'm a solicitor with the seniors rights Service. I've been with the service for about five years now. So it's clearly working pretty well. I think what I really like most about my job here in this area of law in particular, is that you really get a sense that you're helping people, a lot of times as a lawyer, you'll be representing a corporation or a bank or an insurance company. And at the end of the day, you don't really get to see the impact that your work has to the same as you would in this sort of role, where it's really all about people, you see people's problems for what they are, these legal issues do have a very human impact. And it's been an absolute privilege to be able to use the skills and experience that I've gained throughout the course of my career to really make a difference to people. So it's, it's been wonderful. It's been a great, great place for the last few years for me.
So Mitchell, what service does the seniors right service New South Wales provide? And what is the typical case for your team?
I mean, that's a very good question. Look, so SRS is primarily a generalist legal service, that effectively means that we advise seniors all across New South Wales, and we advise about a very broad range of legal issues. We are, however, a bit of a specialist center, more so in the sense that our clientele and therefore really our experience and expertise, lies lies in those issues and areas that most affect older people. Things like granny flat agreements, particularly when they go awry, elder abuse issues, guardianship and powers of attorney. Those are all some of the more key areas that we practice in some of the more common inquiries. But we do also practice across more areas that are, I suppose more of a general nature. So we can assist with things like consumer claims, and neighbor disputes, fences, trees, noise complaints, etc. We also assist with things like license appeals and administrative law, our casework primarily, which is where SRS would be representing a client, potentially in the courts, would be often in areas where the disputes for whatever reason, might not be commercial. And what I mean by that is, effectively that private representation might simply not be in the client's best interests, or it might be just unavailable due to lack of means. It's certainly not uncommon in matters, particularly where families are involved for legal costs to quickly overwhelm the actual amount disputed between the parties. So SRS does our best with fairly limited resources to try and assist people as best as we can to resolve those disputes and make sure that everyone could walk away at the end of the day, with a good result.
Who are your target clients? And are there any eligibility to access the service?
Thanks for that. So at target clients, as the seniors right service are, of course, seniors throughout New South Wales, or on occasion, those residing interstate that have issues that specifically relate to New South Wales law. So for example, somebody could call us from Adelaide worried about, say, a family member in aged care in New South Wales. And we could see what we could do on a case by case basis. We do have some cut offs for our advice and other representation services. And those are primarily 65 For general advice and strata. And but we also advise anybody who is a resident or prospective resident that includes a former resident of a retirement village, and that'll typically be people who are 55 years and older. We also do provide advice to anyone over the age of 50, who identifies as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. It's, it can be a bit confusing. I certainly know. But thankfully all that's on our on our website for people to review.
Thanks, Mitchell, would you please tell us a little bit more about the strata services team?
Thanks for that. So look, strata was originally funded in a fairly limited role back in 2016, primarily in response to the collective sales regime that's coming up. It's a bit of a regime that not too many people have still heard of. But effectively, the collective sales legislation means that if 75% of owners in a strata scheme all agree to sell, um the remaining 25% can in fact be forced to sell. It's a bit of a controversial, I suppose, um piece of legislation, but it's still something that's working its way through the courts. And I think for that reason, it was really once we started running this service and educating people on strata more generally, that we noticed there was a huge influx of people that really wanted advice about all manner of strata problems. Thankfully, in response to that our funding partners which for this particular project is the Office of Fair Trading, were very much on board with us and allowed us to expand the scope of our service to provide general advice about strata living, and disputes in general. Since then, we've had some pretty important wins for disadvantaged clients in both the tribunal and Supreme Court levels. And in doing so, I think we've gotten some much needed clarity, particularly into what sort of issues are affecting older persons living in strata in particular, and also how best we can, as a service protect and advanced those those interests of older people,
what is the best way for community worker to make a referral to your service? Or is it better for people to self refer?
because of the limits of our practice, the best thing for community worker to do would be to encourage a prospective client that's really an older person with any kind of issue to contact us directly. And we really focus as a service on helping people help themselves. And that's about our message of education, and empowerment. So the more people are able to contact us directly as a prospective client, the better. However, we are more than happy for any assistance that community workers are able to provide to in the sector to our clients, whether that's sending a warm referral outlining the matters prior to them contacting us themselves, or even assisting a client with the exchange of documents. And our phone number is 029281 3600. For our initial advice and intake line. In terms of self referrals, we are a very busy service, I know it can be difficult to get through. But if you leave your name, number and a brief message, one of our intake officers will endeavor to get back to you within 24 to 48 hours, and often quicker if it does appear to be urgent. We try and ask people that people don't simply walk into the office, as it's not always staffed. We are a state based service after all, and we are primarily a telephone advice based service. So if you are wanting to come into the office, please just call that intake number and you can request a face to face appointment. We'll try and accommodate you as best we can.
Thanks, Mitchell, that's wonderful. Does Seniors rights have an e-alert or a newsletter that community workers can subscribe to?
So SRS does have a mailing list people can subscribe to I believe that can be found on our website. At the moment, we primarily release newsletters and other materials like loose leafs, whenever there are interesting or important developments in the sector. It's still a bit of a work in progress. We are hoping, however to expand it to be more regular. And that'll be in line with the increase in our overall presence in the sector.
Do you present training sessions to services or do you present at conferences?
so thanks for that I'm so SRS is more than happy to respond to any kind of requests for training from community groups. And that can also mean groups such as social workers in the health sector, or anybody else who would be appropriate for training from our solicitors. In general were likely to present at conferences, following on from a big development within the sector, whether that's internal or external. And that's often things like major changes in the laws relevant to older persons, key litigations or decisions that we've been involved in, or have been aware of. And also whenever law reform and Law Reform submissions are taking place, we often spearhead those sorts of reform efforts. The last few years in particular, have been very active in that space, particularly given the multiple royal commissions, which have had key relevance to our clients in the work we do. We were very active in those royal commissions. And while it's tremendous amount of work, we are still very hopeful that the results of those royal commissions will be very positive and lead to some positive changes for our clients.
I think we're all very hopeful for that. So Mitchell, where can people find the seniors rights on social media in this day and age of technology?
We currently have both a Facebook and Twitter account, and they're very active. There's regular posts about all kinds of issues, key issues and developments facing older people. So simply just type in seniors rights service to your favorite social media. And it shouldn't be too difficult to find, I hope
just to finish off, Mitchell, what's the one thing you would like older people or seniors in need of legal advice to know?
I've got to thank you for that question. Because it is a great question. And the one thing I really want people to get out of this podcast today, if they take nothing else away from it is this. It is okay to seek help. A lot of people can find it when they're faced with legal problems, especially debt or matters involving family members. They find it embarrassing, they can find it confronting and talking to a solicitor, someone you don't know about those issues can seem really daunting. I would just like people to take some comfort in the fact that our staff are highly experienced and Highly trained in all manner of issues facing seniors. And that's not just the legal issues. That's also the issues relating to trauma, relating to all those other factors that are at play when someone reaches out to us to seek our advice. So really, there's not a great deal going on, I would expect that we're unlikely to have had experience it in some way, as a broad based service and as a service of many years experience and standing right now, you know, we've seen a lot. I just want to really finish off on that note, um I wanted to just add that, you know, just because you get older, it doesn't mean you need to become invisible. SRS is here to advance your interests as an older person. We're here to empower and we're here to educate you. We're also really just here to ensure quality of life and dignity.
Thank you so much for joining us today, Mitchell and for letting us shine the spotlight on the seniors right service New South Wales.
Thanks so much for having me Pauline. It's been great. And I'm hoping, again, if you take nothing else away from today, just understand that it's absolutely okay to pick up the phone, give us a call 029281 3600 and we will see what we can do. We are a broad based service, we're a very experienced and very old service. So I'm sure if you give us a ring. We'll do our best and see if we can assist in any way.
That was our guest Mitchell from the SRS or seniors rights, seniors right service New South Wales. As always, you'll find links to all the websites and resources mentioned in this episode listed in our show notes, as well as a full transcript or you can always email us to CLE@legalaid.nsw.gov.au This has been spotlight on Thank you for listening and Goodbye everyone.