Information, Communications and Data Technology (ICDT)
Community Legal Centres Australia set up an ICT team in 2016-17 to develop and implement the Community Legal Assistance Service System (CLASS). CLASS is a software tool that all community legal centres which are funded under the NLAP (National Legal Assistance Partnership, 2020–2025) must use to report data on NLAP-funded services to governments.
Over time, governments have imposed more complex reporting requirements. At the same time, many centres have moved away from paper-based legal practice management approaches and adopted digital legal practice and client management systems (CMSs). CLASS is now an ageing system, which was never designed to meet centres’ increasingly sophisticated client management, data, and reporting needs. CLASS cannot match the functionality of modern CMS tools.
To respond to these developments, CLCs Australia is working on two priority ICDT projects:
- NLAP reporting – including supporting centres to meet six-monthly reporting obligations to Commonwealth, state, and territory governments (set by the NLAP) and deliver unit-level data reporting on an annual basis (as required under the NLAP)
- Our vision for the sector’s ICDT future – including supporting centres to plan and prepare for the end of CLASS (whenever that may be), transition to digital legal practice management and adopt a modern CMS and building a National Data Repository for the community legal sector.
The team also provides provide technical support and training for CLASS and helps centres with data management needs and reporting obligations via the ICT and Data Helpdesk. Centres will find extensive documentation on CLASS in the CLASS and ICT resources section.
Six-monthly NLAP service data reports
In January and July each year, centres funded under NLAP must report service data to Commonwealth, state, and territory governments.
Community Legal Centres Australia assists centres to produce these ‘jurisdictional reports’. This work includes supporting centres to enter service data into CLASS accurately, receiving data into CLASS from centres already using modern CMSs, cleaning data, and quality-checking data reports.
As more centres adopt CMS tools, this process is becoming more complex. We are working hard to ensure our processes are as streamlined and efficient for centres as possible.
The next NLAP reporting period begins in January 2024. Centres can find detailed information on arrangements for the January 2024 reporting process in the User Portal.
Unit-level data reporting pilot project
In September 2023, NLAP-funded centres were required to provide unit-level data on legal services to the Commonwealth Government (via the Australian Bureau of Statistics).
Community Legal Centres Australia worked with the Commonwealth Government, state and territory community legal sector peaks and individual centres to ensure centres could meet the obligation to deliver unit-level data without compromising the confidentiality of their clients.
We are now waiting to hear back from the Australian Bureau of Statistics on its assessment of this data, which it is considering with reference to data from other legal assistance providers.
Beyond CLASS – Our vision for the sector’s ICDT future
Community Legal Centres Australia developed CLASS in 2016-17 as a data reporting and basic case management system for community legal centres funded under the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance 2017–2020 and NLAP. Funding for CLASS under these agreements expires on 30 June 2025. CLASS is an ageing system which was never designed to meet centres’ increasingly sophisticated data needs and complex reporting requirements. While no firm date has been set for the decommissioning of CLASS, it cannot continue indefinitely.
To ensure centres can meet their reporting obligations into the future, and continue to have access to a robust, sector-owned, national dataset, Community Legal Centres Australia has developed a vision for the sector’s ICDT future in which:
- All centres are resourced and supported to implement a modern CMS tool
- CLCs Australia is resourced to build and maintain a National Data Repository that can receive and store data from a limited number of modern CMS tools used by centres
- CLCs Australia delivers self-service data reporting and visualisation services for centres using data stored in the National Data Repository (but does not develop or maintain a bespoke database or CMS tool for the community legal sector)
Most centres support this vision for the sector’s ICDT future. However, realising this vision will require significant investment and support from Commonwealth, state, and territory governments.
Member centres can access more detailed information about our vision for the sector’s ICDT future via the User Portal.
We are asking Commonwealth, state and territory governments to partner with us to jointly develop and cost a realistic ICDT transition plan for the sector while we continue to deliver reporting via CLASS.
August 2023 – Data Standards Manual compliance
The Commonwealth Government publishes the National Legal Assistance Data Standards Manual. This outlines the reporting requirements for centres that receive NLAP funding. CLCs Australia produces the Data Consistency Guide to help centres ensure they are meeting the requirements of the Data Standards Manual.
In August 2023, a major update was made to CLASS to streamline the process of generating reports consistent with changes to the Data Standards Manual implemented in 2022.
The CLASS updates include:
- Ongoing Legal Support has been added as a new service type. All service-related DIY reports can now report on this service type.
- In addition to reporting by calendar date, Active services now includes ongoing legal support and ongoing non-legal support.
- The Financial Disadvantage Indicator field is now multi-select, so you can select more than one reason for financial hardship if needed. The Mode of Service Delivery field is also now multi-select, allowing you to choose multiple options for how you deliver services to each client, for example, face-to-face and outreach. The Financial Disadvantage Indicator and Mode of Service Delivery field changes can now be included in all reports that use these fields.
We will update ICT and CLASS resources pages on our website soon. In the meantime, centres needing assistance navigating the changes can contact the ICT and Data Helpdesk.