Funding cuts threaten disability law centre
The country's only specialist law centre for people with disabilities is fighting a proposal that would see it axed in favour of an internet and phone-based service.
Auckland Disability Law is calling on Justice Minister Judith Collins to retain funding for the Mangere centre.
It has helped more than 7000 people since its doors opened in 2008.
Spokeswoman Nicola Owen says the centre's face-to-face services are vitally important to many people with disabilities, who may be prevented from using the internet for financial or physical reasons.
The main legal issues its clients face are personal and human rights, issues of welfare, housing, discrimination in employment and education and difficulties with ACC and the Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act, she says.
"Disabled people make up one in five people in the population and are particularly vulnerable to experiencing complex legal problems that are difficult to resolve."
As well as legal representation and advocacy, the centre has been an integral part of many campaigns for the rights of people with disabilities, such as that for the right to be fully covered by minimum-wage law.
More than 100 individuals and organisations, including mayor Len Brown, have thrown their weight behind the campaign.
Mental Health Foundation chief executive Judi Clements says funding cuts to Auckland Disability Law would be hugely detrimental to many people with mental illnesses who often "find it difficult to find a lawyer due to stigma, miscommunication and other barriers".
The new structure is scheduled to take effect in July 2013.
Anyone who wants to add their name to an open letter supporting the centre's continued funding can do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, Ms Owen says.
The letter will be sent to Ms Collins before the end of the consultation period on August 1.
A community hui for people with disabilities, their friends, family and supporters will be held on Monday from 1pm to 3pm at Western Springs Community Garden Hall, 956 Great North Rd, Western Springs.
Green MP Mojo Mathers, Sue Bradford of the Mana Party and Auckland Action Against Poverty and lawyers Clive Lansink and Dr Huhana Hickey will be present. All those interested in the future of Auckland Disability Law are invited to attend.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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