Single parents and people with a disability are twice as likely to have serious legal problems than the rest of the population, a study shows. (STUDY LINK)
The study, commissioned by state and territory legal aid commissions, found almost half of people aged over l5 had experienced a legal problem in the past year.
The most common types of problems were consumer (21 per cent), crime (14), housing ( 12) and government ( 11) .
National Legal Aid chairman Bevan Warner said legal problems for single parents and people with a disability were "more pronounced" than for others.
"Disability is linked to increased rates of most problem types, including clinical negligence, discrimination, neighbour issues, rented housing, unfair treatment by police and government organisations . . . whereas single mothers' legal problems are more likely to be in the poverty space.”
The findings come after the federal government plan to get 100,000 single parents of parenting payments and onto the Newstart allowance - aimed at encouraging parents to enter or rejoin the workforce – passed the Senate this week.
"People with legal problems get sick, have relationship breakdowns or lose their home. This [does] not only have a severe impact on individual but an additional burden on the health system, family counselling services, government and community services and charities," Mr Warner said.
"The frustrating aspect of this is that our clients … also qualify for other government funded programs that rarely include a legal assistance component. It would be good if government recognised that people with a disability, single parents unemployed and indigenous people are more likely to have legal problems so we should be investing in more intensive services for them."
The study, conducted by the New South Wales Law and Justice Foundation, found that while a little more than half of Australians sought professional help for their legal problems, l8 per cent took no action and achieved the poorest outcomes.
Mr Warner said only the very poorest people could now access legal aid services, largely because Commonwealth finding had dropped, "falling from half of overall funding in 1997 to only a third this year.”
Hugh de Kretser, the Federation of Community Legal Centres' executive officer, said the gap between those eligible for legal aid and those who could afford a lawyer had grown into a chasm and called for the government to double its legal assistance spend.
A spokeswoman for Commonwealth Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said the government had pledged $l .3 billion to legal assistance services over the next four years in the largest commitment in more than a decade.
LISA Comment: Most people with disabilities and their families are overwhelmed by the arrogance of many captive market service providers, especially government direct services
Government direct service, especially, consider they are always right, and consumers are always wrong. And that consumers should be content with whatever they get, or don’t get.
In Victoria, the Department of Human Services, Disability Services (DHS), have the total support of the various pseudo government departments – the Ombudsman, the OPA, the ODSC, VCAT, etc.
These, so called, independent statutory bodies protect the DHS against all but the most blatant consumer complaints.
This all powerful government department is further protected by its huge financial resources, providing it with the very best and most experienced legal support.
People with disabilities and their families, even if they can afford, or can get pro-bono legal support, are often denied access to those legal firms with experience and expertise in the disability field. Many of these firms work for the DHS, and are therefore unable to support those who challenge the DHS - as it would be a conflict of interest.
Incorporated organisations like LISA Inc. can approach PILCH (Public Interest Law Clearing House) for legal support to challenge that which is seen to adversely affect systemic service provision. Nevertheless, it is still that of jumping through blazing hoops and walking on fire to get to the actual law firm. Then the law firm has to convince PILCH that the case has merit. This means, “Is there any chance against the DHS.”
Recently, LISA Inc, with a very smart legal team, lost at VCAT against the old DHS legal guard. The case was that of the release of service provider independent accreditation results to people with disabilities and their families… Our legal team, and almost everyone we know considers it so obvious that these results should be available to consumers – if the consumer, the person with disabilities