Launceston Community Legal Centre says clients will suffer

THE Launceston Community Legal Centre says the North’s most vulnerable will have reduced access to justice because of funding cuts imposed on the service.

Funding for community legal centres throughout Australia will decrease annually from July. It is estimated the measure will save $34.8 million over three years.

Launceston Community Legal Centre chief executive Nicky Snare said the organisation would be forced to reduce its staff numbers from eight people to five by December.

“Basically, for every solicitor we lose, we are losing 500 potential clients,” she said.

Community legal centres provide one-off legal advice for healthcare card holders, victims of family violence and people with disability. Typically the advice relates to civil law, such as advice on the legal rights of the elderly and neighbourhood disputes.

The Launceston Community Legal Centre estimates it has helped one in 12 Launceston residents over the last five years.

“Although we don’t do what would be considered high-profile stuff, it’s the sort of thing where people come out and think ‘We’ve had the weight of the world taken off our shoulders’,” Ms Snare said.

A spokeswoman for Attorney-General George Brandis said the Coalition had delivered $1.6 billion for legal aid commissions, community legal centres and Indigenous legal assistance services, with funds increasing over the five years of the agreement.

“The family violence funding includes $350,000 for the Women’s Legal Service Tasmania,” she said.

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