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Community Legal Centres Under Pressure: Report

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Twenty percent of people who approached community legal services had to be turned away in 2011/12, and continued underfunding combined with increasing demand for services has meant another difficult year for CLCs, the latest Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) Australian Community Sector Survey has revealed.

Sixty-seven percent of community legal centres reported that they were underfunded and 63 percent reported that they were unable to meet community demand. In fact, three quarters of the community legal centres surveyed had asked staff and volunteers to work additional hours.

In response to these pressures, 85 percent of CLCs had limited the services they provide, and 59 percent had increased waiting times.

”This is not something that community legal centres take lightly – while clients in crisis are always prioritised, it is a heavy burden for community lawyers and other staff to know that there are people in need missing out”, said Community Law Australia spokesperson Carolyn Bond.

“Survey results like these can only gauge the tip of the iceberg when it comes to access to justice in Australia, which is why we welcome the Productivity Commission’s task of understanding the full extent of the crisis.”

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