A collaboration between Anglican Advocacy Ashburton and Canterbury Community Law is set to boost legal advice services in the district.
The partnership between the two groups will be extended to offer free advice clinics to help address a gap in the legal aid system.
Fortnightly online clinics will be held at Community House Mid Canterbury on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month starting this month.
People can book a slot and talk with a community lawyer in Christchurch via video conferencing.
Anglican Advocacy will facilitate the process and will welcome and assist clients at the online meeting.
Community Law will run the service as a 12 month trial in order to assess needs and may look to extend it.
There is a real need in Ashburton and other places to plug the gap in the legal aid system, Anglican Advocacy Ashburton co-ordinator Warren James said.
“Services are fragile nationwide, particularly in civil law areas.
“Access can be difficult for some people, so this new service will make a difference.”
He said the service was about giving advice and not about legal representation.
Common areas addressed by lawyers will include issues around property, employment, care of children and family.
Advice is not offered in areas such as company law, commercial leases, wills and trust law and immigration.
Mr James said people could have up to an hour with the lawyer, via Zoom, in the clinics.
Anglican Advocacy has operated in Ashburton for the last three years and last year helped 100 people.
The service has expanded and seven volunteers now support clients.
Mr James said demand for advice and support was increasing and one of the current big issues for some people here was rented accommodation.
“Vulnerable people are at the bottom of the list when it comes to renting, but secure housing is just so important for them,” Mr James said.
More older people were also using advocacy services and struggling with housing and family issues.
Anglican Advocacy Ashburton now has an office in Community House Mid Canterbury and takes referrals from social service agencies, other groups and self referrals.
Bookings for the new legal aid clinic can be made by calling 0508 CANLAW (226529), or at the canlaw.org.nz website.
-By Mick Jensen