More Victorians will be able to get the benefits of enhanced legal access. This follows the increase in disposable income threshold by the organisation named “Legal Aid.”
It hiked the threshold from AU$255 per week to AU$360, as a reflection of the rising cost of living of Victorians. The revised eligibility criteria will be coming into force after a gap of more than a decade. Legal Aid’s Kristen Hilton said the revised income limits will help hundreds of people to become eligible for enhanced legal assistance, reports ABC News.
“We identified there were a number of changes we could make immediately to make the means test fairer, because we do know that people have been missing out on Legal Aid where they otherwise need it,” Hilton said.
Hilton noted that the new beneficiaries among Victorians will be people who are too poor and not able to afford their own lawyer. “Last year we saw 85,000 unique clients over a range of services plus 120,000 phone calls to our legal information service.” Hilton added.
She said people across the country require legal assistance. But they are not getting it. Hilton said millions of dollars in funding are required to provide the best legal support for citizens. Expressing concern at the erosion in funding for the legal assistance sector, Hilton hailed the productivity commission’s recent statement. It called for AU$200 million investment in the legal sector to ensure legal services for the needy.
Meanwhile, many state, national and territory legal bodies have announced a national campaign to draw attention to the crisis in legal aid. According to the Law Council of Australia (LCA), successive federal governments have been slashing Commonwealth’s share of legal aid. In the past 20 years, it came down from 50 percent to 35 percent. The LCA urged the Federal Government to restore the legal aid funding immediately, and also increase funding to legal assistance bodies.
“The plight of people denied legal aid is a direct result of hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts by successive federal governments,” said LCA president Stuart Clark, reports Lawyers Weekly.