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Access to justice and legal needs. Stage 1: public consultations  ( 2003 )  Cite this report

Ch 1. Who is disadvantaged in seeking access to justice?



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People on low incomes


1.38 Not surprisingly, people facing economic disadvantage, due to having no income, a low income, or being in receipt of social security benefits, were commonly identified as being disadvantaged in accessing legal services and the legal system.

1.39 Given the often prohibitive cost of private legal services, poverty and lack of financial resources was considered as one of the most significant barriers in accessing justice. In addition, it was reported that such people often suffer a multitude of problems, many of which are non-legal, which can discourage them from seeking legal assistance.

People in poverty who lack services often have legal needs on top of other needs. Even if services could meet the legal needs, the client may not return because their legal needs get subsumed by other needs—accommodation, mental health. Unless other needs are met, legal needs will not be met.50

1.40 The NSW Energy and Water Ombudsman further noted that people on low incomes are commonly faced with restriction to or disconnection from the supply of electricity, gas or water services which are essential to health and to maintaining a minimum standard of living. It noted that loss of these essential services tends to deepen social disadvantage, as it can force the customer to leave their home (while incurring additional expenses), contribute to poor health and worsening educational outcomes, and accentuate other legal problems.51



Law and Justice Foundation of NSW roundtable with community legal centres at the NSW Combined Community Legal Centres Groups State Conference, 25 November 2002.
Submission from Energy and Water Ombudsman of NSW.

50  Law and Justice Foundation of NSW roundtable with community legal centres at the NSW Combined Community Legal Centres Groups State Conference, 25 November 2002.
51  Submission from Energy and Water Ombudsman of NSW.


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Schetzer, L. & Henderson, J 2003, Public consultations: a project to identify legal needs, pathways and barriers for disadvantaged people in NSW, Access to justice and legal needs vol. 1, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney