State’s community legal centres facing funding crisis

Funding for the state’s community legal centres has reached crisis levels, with representatives from the sector meeting with state and federal MPs in an attempt to find solutions.

The emergency bipartisan meeting on Tuesday will attempt to address funding issues that see almost half of all people who approach legal aid centres turned away.

Anticipating further cuts, community lawyers will plead their case at Parliament with federal and state representatives in an attempt to discuss the impact the unmet need is already having.

“While community legal centres helped almost 50,000 people last financial year, more than 80,000 couldn’t get the services they need,” Director of Queensland Association of Independent Legal Services James Farrell said.

“That means that three in every five people trying to get legal help are turned away.”

The meeting comes as the Palaszczuk Government attempts to address issues victims of domestic violence experience in the legal system, including lack of access to representation.

“This year’s state budget included specific funding that will allow community legal centres to provide domestic violence duty lawyer services in partnership with Legal Aid across Queensland, and it’s vital that people get the help they need at court,” Mr Farrell said.

“But not all legal problems get to court, and many don’t end there. It’s vital that people can get access to legal help as early as possible, and community legal centres just can’t keep up with the demand.

“People aren’t getting the legal help they need in relation to domestic violence, separation and divorce, problems at work, or when they’re facing financial hardship. If they can’t get the legal help they need, it can have profound impacts on their life, which has huge economic and social costs.

“The Productivity Commission encouraged Governments to invest an extra $200m in civil and family law service, but we’re actually anticipating cuts to funding. How many more people will miss out on vital legal help?”

Queensland turns away more clients than any other state, with fears federal cuts to associations will result in even more turn-aways.

Parliament is expected to pass a raft of domestic violence measures during this week’s sitting, with the Opposition flagging it is considering adding to Labor’s laws, taking the recommendations contained in the ‘Not Now, Not Ever’ report ordered by the former LNP government, further.

Source: Brisbane Times