Wednesday, 29 Mar 2023

Saying no has an enormous impact: overwhelmed community legal centres forced to turn away clients

Saying no has an enormous impact: overwhelmed community legal centres forced to turn away clients


Saying no has an enormous impact: overwhelmed community legal centres forced to turn away clients

New clients are rarely accepted at Inner Melbourne Community Legal centre, where lawyers say the pressure of handling the cases they already have is becoming overwhelming.

But there are always exceptions.

Like a woman dubbed client two: the single carer for five children in a nearby public housing tower and a victim of family violence, who has about $14,000 in outstanding fines, many of which were incurred by her abusive partner.

Then there's client six, living in public housing with six children, who made a complaint about mould in the property, which she says only resulted in the area being wiped and painted, and her being served a breach notice.

Or client eight, with outstanding criminal, family and tenancy law matters, who is homeless with a 16-month-old, and pregnant.

In the almost perverse stocktake the centre has to do of those in need, these are the clients who are marginalised in enough ways, and in enough immediate peril, that the centre decides they cannot be turned away.

"Saying no has an enormous impact not just on the client but on the staff," said Nadia Morales, the director of strategy, engagement and projects at Inner Melbourne Community Legal.

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