The Public Service Association says plans to cut legal services for the disability community are discriminatory and will leave disabled New Zealanders without access to specialist legal representation.
Proposals by the Ministry of Justice for the future of Community Law Centers will see funding cut to Auckland Disability Law from June next year. Auckland Disability Law is the only Community Law Center in New Zealand which exclusively provides direct specialist legal services to disabled people.
It provides legal information, advice and casework services to thousands of people, legal education workshops as well as community advocacy and law reform.
"Disabled people have complex legal needs and removing their access to specialist legal advice and representation is blatantly discriminatory," says PSA National Secretary Richard Wagstaff.
"Withdrawing this service could also be in breach of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which New Zealand has ratified, and guarantees fair and equal access to legal representation."
Paul Brown who is a PSA delegate and member of the PSA Deaf and Disabled Members Network says taking away this valuable service represents a real blow to the disability community.
"The service runs on a shoe-string and we cannot understand why the government wants to take away its funding. If anything disability legal services should be extended around the country so that every disabled New Zealander can have access to specialist advice and advocacy."
"Auckland Disability Law also plays an important role in giving the disability community a voice in terms of submissions to council or government. It makes sure the disability perspective is taken into account and helps raise awareness of disability issues."
The PSA is supporting the Save Disability Law campaign which is being launched today. It is urging the Ministry of Justice to rethink its proposals and ensure there are specialist disability law services available to all disabled people throughout New Zealand.
The Save Disability Law campaign is being launched today (July 5) 12-1pm at Trades Hall, 147 Great North Road, Grey Lynn.
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