Baulkham Hills State Liberal MP David Elliott welcomed a NSW Liberals and Nationals Government plan to strengthen Western Sydney Community Legal Centre so it can continue delivering free legal support to local people in need.
“The government has championed Community Legal Centres in Western Sydney and across NSW, securing their future in this year’s budget with more than $15 million in new funding over four years and now, delivering a strategy that will provide them with greater stability,” Mr Elliott said.
The government has already allocated additional money to address critical gaps for CLCs as recommended by NSW Law Reform Commission Chair Mr Alan Cameron AO in his independent review of CLC funding.
“Importantly, funding will be delivered in three year cycles so local Community Legal Centres can plan for the future without fear that the well will run dry,” Mr Elliott said.
Attorney General Mark Speakman said the government’s investment in CLCs would enable them to continue to provide a complete range of legal assistance, including free information and advice, community education and case work.
“Vulnerable people across NSW rely on CLCs for help on a myriad of issues including domestic violence, debt, tenancy disputes and the care and protection of children.
“In many instances, their work helps to more quickly resolve matters before they are escalated to the courts, saving thousands in legal costs, reducing stress and alleviating pressure on the justice system.” Mr Speakman said.
The plan also includes an innovative solution to providing CLCs with a permanent source of extra funding. After talks with the NSW Law Society Council, the government will legislate to use the interest generated on half of an $88 million fund for the benefit of CLCs. The other half of the funds will be returned to the reserves of Lawcover Pty Ltd, the NSW legal profession’s insurer.
The Solicitors Mutual Indemnity Fund (SMIF) was used to pay professional negligence claims arising from the collapse of insurance giant HIH in 2001.The fund has now fulfilled that purpose.
“Under the proposed legislation, $44 million will be allocated to a ‘future fund’, with the interest used exclusively to fund CLCs,” Mr Speakman said.
From 2019-20, CLCs will receive almost $12 million per annum in state funding (including from the ‘future fund’) – an increase of more than 85 per cent from 2015-16. This is in addition to discretionary payments from the Public Purpose Fund (PPF) for CLCs, which in 2018-19 totalled $2.4 million.
CLCs are community-based not for profit organisations that provide free legal help to people who are experiencing disadvantage. In 2016–17, CLCs provided assistance to more than 52,000 people at over 30 locations across metropolitan, regional and rural NSW.