Illawarra Legal Centre services are in jeopardy following a NSW Government proposal that will essentially cut funding.
Member for Wollongong Paul Scully is calling on the State Government to review its decision. Speaking outside the centre in Warrawong on Monday he and its co-ordinator Truda Gray were concerned about the impact it will have.
"The State Government has decided to reduce the amount of funding for next financial year to the same dollar value level as 2016/17," he said.
"What that means is about a $55,000 reduction in funding. But if you take into account inflation that represents around $70,000 in real terms".
Mr Scully said it is only legal centres in the Illawarra and Northern Rivers that face an effective reduction.
"The other 31 centres across the state look like receiving on average about $165,000 additional funding. They haven't given a reason. It is not as if the number of clients through the door has been reducing here. And it is not as if the complexity of cases or the amount of time that is needed to spend with people has reduced".
"Illawarra Legal Centre is seeing around 5000 people a year. Services like this one take pressure off the courts and they take pressure off other services. I'm calling on the Government to reconsider its decision about that funding level to reflect the actual need down here. I have written to the Attorney General and am happy to host him to come down and speak directly to the team".
Ms Gray said the centre is already cut to the bone and the level of funding announced will mean cuts to direct services for clients.
"I would like to find out how they decided our centre and the one in the Northern Rivers deserved a cut. The demand for our services is ever increasing. We get about 55,000 phone calls here per annum. We have four main services here. Tenancy, welfare rights, general legal and financial counselling. Some are funded by State and some are funding by the Federal Government".
Principal solicitor Phillip Dicalfas said "the main problem I am thinking about at the moment is the fact that I and another lawyer here supervise a team of volunteer solicitors. There are 20 or more of those who come in on a Thursday evenings and Friday afternoons out of their own good will. And our ability to supervise those people will be reduced," he said.
"The Government has been getting from us Pro-bono services. So they have been leveraging much greater benefit for their funding dollar. But that is going to be cut with the cut in funding".