“Community law centres and the legal aid scheme are the key ways for providing free or low cost legal assistance to people who can not afford it,” she said.
“The changes mean an extra 93,000 more people will be eligible for legal aid from January 2023.”
The $149 million funding came from Budget 2022. It increases the income eligibility threshold by 15%, removes the $50 legal aid charge and scraps interest charged.
“Concerns have rightly been raised about the low eligibility threshold – for a single applicant this is currently just over half of what a fulltime worker on the minimum wage receives – the $50 user charge, debt repayment and interest on legal aid grants.
“This will improve access to legal assistance for low-income New Zealanders and reduce debts incurred as a result for seeking that assistance,” Allan said.
“These changes mean real help for the people who need it most.”
The debt repayment threshold will go up 16.5% and lawyers will get a 12% increase in their hourly rate from July 1.
Hilariously the ‘Lady of Justice’ has been cancelled which is kinda fitting because justice in NZ has been cancelled for the poor.
The manner in which the State butchered Legal Aid to denigrate the industry and force massive change that irreparably harmed working people’s access to justice.
Now Legal Aid is given as a loan, working people and the lower middle classes are forced to plead guilty just to avoid the enslavement of debt.
This debt despicably had interest charged on it!
To her credit, the new Minister has at least removed that cruelty, but it’s still a justice system for the rich if working people and the lower middle classes are forced to take on debt to defend charges by a State that has an unlimited budget.
Legal Aid should be free to ensure people aren’t pressured economically into pleading guilty and while we are at it, people who have their children uplifted should have access to legal aid as well.
Waiving a $50 fee, raising debt repayment thresholds and ending interest on legal aid debt is barely recognising the true negative impact of forcing poor people into choosing debt over justice.
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