VULNERABLE members of the community are “working off” unpaid fines rather than spiralling into depression at the mere thought of having to pay them, under a new Fines Victoria scheme.
Peninsula Community Legal Centre – whose clients owe an average $12,000 in unpaid fines – provides free legal assistance to vulnerable people. It has branches at Rosebud, Frankston, and Pines.
CEO Jackie Galloway said unpaid fines were “becoming an increasing problem in the community” and called for more health practitioners and organisations to take a sponsorship role.
“Becoming a sponsor is important given the devastating psychological and financial toll COVID-19 is having on people’s lives and the substantial financial and emotional costs associated with receiving fines,” she said.
“For most, unpaid fines are an inconvenience, but for those eligible for this scheme their impact is devastating.”
The scheme’s project worker Laura Sanderson said: “Clients can stop opening their letters as their debt escalates and their mental health and addiction issues can spiral downwards.
“We’ve seen clients work off their fines by engaging in activities ranging from getting mental health treatment, studying for the first time at a community college, volunteering at their church and getting support for drug and alcohol problems. Participation in the scheme is often life-changing for them.”
To be accredited by Fines Victoria, sponsors must apply for a permit on behalf of a client and then report his or her participation. This can be done using the Fines Victoria WDP portal.
Ms Galloway said the scheme was a “more financially viable option than pouring government resources into failed attempts to collect debt from people with no assets or financial stability”.
Potential sponsors can contact Laura Sanderson at firstname.lastname@example.org