Community Law Centres will receive a funding boost to meet the increased need for free legal services due to COVID-19, Justice Minister Andrew Little said.
The $3.5m funding is for the next three financial years and is additional to the almost $8 million for Community Law Centres announced in Budget 2020.
“Community Law Centres (CLCs) provide an essential service for low-income New Zealanders to receive free legal advice to navigate whatever issue is before them. The effects of COVID-19 will be felt for a long time. More than ever, New Zealanders will need to access community legal services,” Andrew Little said.
Each year, CLCs complete around 50,000 cases and provide law-related education to around 25,000 people.
Ministry of Justice forecasts show demand is expected to spike in the next few years and the funding will support the delivery of approximately 15,000 extra cases.
“Community Law Centres must be equipped to meet this increase,” Andrew Little said. “Ensuring access to legal help for those who can’t afford it helps with early resolution of legal problems, meaning issues do not escalate unnecessarily and put further burden on the justice system, or avoidable mental and emotional strain on parties involved.
“The Labour-New Zealand First Coalition Agreement committed to increased funding for Community Law Centres – this is the third year in a row we have delivered on this commitment,” Andrew Little said.
The extra funding will allow for current part-time staff to move into fulltime roles, and for the CLCs to attract and retain quality staff, allowing for higher volumes of casework to be completed.