The legal aid system needs a complete overhaul to prevent thousands of people from being unable to access justice, according to Community Law Centres O Aotearoa(CLCA).
“The report released today by the NZ Law Society reflects the situation being reported by community law centres throughout Aotearoa, where they struggle to find legal aid lawyers to assist clients,” said CLCA CEO, Sue Moroney.
“Increased funding alone will not fix this broken system. Community Law Centres O Aotearoa calls on the Government to instigate a first-principles review that investigates other models of more effectively and efficiently delivering access to justice to those who can’t afford a lawyer.”
“It is devastating for community lawyers and caseworkers to refer clients into a legal aid system that is increasingly dysfunctional.”
Community Law Centres provide free legal information, assistance and advice to the people who meet the same income eligibility thresholds as those who qualify for legal aid but are not funded to provide legal representation where legal aid is available.
“Sadly, this frequently means people with legitimate legal issues resort to representing themselves or giving up because of the stress, unfairness and complexity involved,” says Sue.
“This can have devastating consequences where people lose contact with children, lose their homes, their jobs or their meagre savings. The desperation of suffering injustices of this magnitude has far-reaching consequences. In many cases Community Law Centres step in to pick up the pieces.”
“Designing a fit-for-purpose system of legal representation for people on low incomes would make a significant difference to achieving a fair and just Aotearoa, New Zealand.