Community lawyers call for sustainable funding
The National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) has stepped up its campaign against budget cuts in legal aid by heading to Canberra to speak directly with politicians.
Representatives from NACLC gathered at Parliament House yesterday to meet with federal MPs to talk about the crisis in legal aid.
NACLC chairperson Rosslyn Monro was joined by representatives from CLC organisations across seven states and territories.
According to NACLC, more than 160,000 people were turned away from CLCs in 2014-15.
But, while demand is increasing, CLCs face funding cuts of $34.83 million nationally between 2017 and 2020.
“Even if the 2017 funding cuts were reversed, funding is not sufficient,” NACLC said in a statement.
“There is a need for longer-term increased funding to the legal assistance sector.”
NACLC is calling for implementation of the Productivity Commission recommendation for an immediate injection of $200 million additional funding per year to legal assistance services.
This will include $120 million from the Commonwealth Government and $14.4 million per year to CLCs.
“There is also a need to develop a process for determining adequate and sustainable longer-term funding contributions to the legal assistance sector,” said NACLC.
Unresolved legal problems generate a range of flow-on effects, escalating problems in health and housing as well as the justice system, according to NACLC.
Legal aid is targeted at the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of the community. More than half of CLCs’ clients are in receipt of a government benefit, more than one quarter identify as having a disability and 13.3 per cent are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people.