Changes coming for community legal services

Changes to how community legal services are delivered will see women and children needing family law advice given priority.

The State government has also announced that under a raft of changes, the needs of people in regional and remote areas will also be prioritised.

The regional changes, which have been brought about by Federal funding cuts to the sector, will focus on improvements in technology and a focus on outreach services to improve access to information, advice and assistance.

Deputy Premier John Rau said that the Federal funding cuts has caused real pain in the Community Legal Services sector. 

“South Australian’s experiencing legal difficulties should expect to have the same access to legal information irrespective of where they live,” he said.

The decision to cut funding to the Community Legal Centre (CLC) sector in SA by 40 per cent meant the first State-led review of Community Legal Centres in 20 years was carried out by Ernst and Young. 

The new model will increase online resources and centralise access to legal information, allowing CLCs to use their resources to provide advice and assistance to their clients.

“Over 90 per cent of service requests are for information and advice,” Mr Rau explained.

“Limitations in the current system mean the sector is not being as effective as it could be, with scope to improve service delivery to those who are most in need. 

“Demand for information and simple advice can be better managed through centralised access to legal information.

“The focus will be on better coordination of legal services to ensure that, even if you don’t live close to a Centre, there will be service options available to you. 

“There will be an enhanced online presence and resources, along with the development of new service delivery channels through partnerships with other community services.”

CLCs are autonomous, non-government, incorporated associations providing legal assistance in the form of information, advice, representation services, law reform and community legal education. There are currently eight CLCs in operation across SA, including one in Mount Gambier, that receive Commonwealth Government funding.