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ImperatorFish: Community Law Centres Under Threat

Written By: - Date published: 11:00 am, August 5th, 2012 - 8 comments
Categories: law, national - Tags:

Scott at Imperator Fish has kindly given us permission to syndicate posts from his blog – the original of this post is here.

The Government has decided to change the way it funds Community Law Centres. There are 26 Community Law Centres, and they provide legal services to those who can’t afford a lawyer.

The Justice Ministry wants to establish a “two tier” system, by reducing the number of Community Law Centres to 10, and setting up an 0800 number and website.

One of the centres threatened with closure is the one closest to me, the Waitakere Community Law Centre. Poverty is a real problem in parts of West Auckland, and the closure of the centre would be a blow to the community.

The funding changes will probably save money, but may result in some people losing access to legal services.

Many people who use the Community Law Centres don’t have access to a phone or the internet. Many have language difficulties, disabilities, or mental health issues. An almost inevitable result of these changes will be a reduction in the quality of service being provided.

The changes are being driven by the desire to cut costs, but they also tell us a lot about the Government’s priorities. They are happy to pay tens of millions of dollars to Australian investment bankers to help sell our public assets, and to give billions of dollars of tax cuts to the wealthy to help them pay for the shares they will buy in those assets, but can they spare even a few million dollars to ensure those already at the bottom of the heap have access to basic legal representation?

If the Government cared about protecting the legal rights of the poor and disadvantaged, then the money would be found to maintain the chain of Community Law Centres.

8 comments on “ImperatorFish: Community Law Centres Under Threat ”

  1. weka 1

    As someone who lives in a town with no CLC, an 0800 call centre would be useful, provided it had actual legal people available. Many call centres are not able to manage complex questions, and I suspect that what the govt intends is that the 0800 number will be staffed by people with only basic training in legal issues, to answer very basic questions and direct people to the website.
     
    However I take your point about the closures. Has the govt given a reason for the change? Published the finances involved?

    • weka 1.1

      I should add that I can phone most CLCs and access advice over the phone once I tell them I live out of town. It would make more sense to give free dialing in such cases rather than set up a call centre.

  2. bbfloyd 2

    The asset stripper party not only don’t care what happens to those at the bottom of the heap, they are actively encouraging larger numbers of these people to drop into the abyss that would have them ending up in prison…..

    They are obligated to ensure there are large enough prison musters to guarantee a profit to the companies running the prisons….. After all, they have contributed to the asset stripping cause with their “generous” donations…….It’s only fair that they get their payola like everyone else on the gravy train…..

  3. On ya Scott.

    It is appalling that at a time that National is smashing up legal aid and wrecking the family court it should at the same time be attacking the very organizations whose work is guaranteed to increase because of these changes.

    Its total indifference to poor people is beyond contempt. 

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      It’s not indifference. It’s actually seeing the poor people as a drain on the wealth that they see as theirs.

  4. Adele 4

    Kiaora

    Law Centres were traditionally funded from the interests rates received on solicitor trust accounts – thus were not directly funded through government coffers. The funds were however administered by the Legal Services Agency – the government agency also charged with administering Legal Aid.

    The situation today appears to be that the fund is now supplemented by government budget appropriations but that a funding shortfall is occurring because of the changing dynamic occurring in the use of solicitor trusts accounts. This government is obviously reluctant to continue to meet the shortfall.

    I am ambivalent about the usefulness of some of our law centres. There are some that are highly useful like Youth Law and Disability Law and should be expanded in their operations and then there are others that deal only with trivia and ignore the bigger issues impacting on communitieds. Some have become irrelevant because the community they are situated in is no longer poverty stricken. There are others that could be created, for example, Takatapui Law – a centre catering for the legal needs of the LGBTQI community and Environment Law on matters of environmental importance to communities.

    In any event, this government is not about empowering the poor, marginalised and dis-affected so what is occurring for law centres is par for the course.

  5. Dr Terry 5

    It follows that cost cutting leads to the cutting down of human beings with their needs. This is deliberate government policy.

  6. aerobubble 6

    More direct action will be the result of loss of a legal path to remedy matters.

    For example my road is become a bit of a rat run, should I call Police every time
    someone speeds, wait for Council to introduce low speed limits (they are), or
    just energize the neighbors to park their cars at the choke point in our road which would
    slow cars and make the road less appealing.

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