New Zealand Law Society - Budget boost for community law centres and court services

Budget boost for community law centres and court services

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The Labour-led government has pledged to increase spending on Community Law Centres (CLCs) by 20% in its first Budget since coming to power last October.

The increase to the CLCs amounts to $2.2 million extra operating funding in 2018/19 to provide a wage- and inflation-based increase to help stabilise funding and current service levels.

Justice Minister Andrew Little says the Budget also provides for better court-ordered services, coronial services and improving the Ministry of Justice’s ability to manage the justice system.

This includes:

  • $88 million in new operating funding over the next four years to support the court system to meet increasing demand for court-ordered services such as expert reports, psychiatric assessments and laboratory tests. This investment will also support the long-term sustainability of coronial services.
  • New operating funding of $52.1 million over the next four years to help support the ministry’s asset maintenance programme and meet some remuneration and ICT cost pressures.

“The Coalition Government is committed to fixing a system that’s been neglected and left in crisis. It’s a big challenge. These are the first steps in our plan to improve how our criminal justice system works,” says Mr Little.

The Budget has allotted an extra $13.4 million over four years to Vote Courts for youth justice.

“This is to increase capacity as the age of people who can be dealt with in the youth justice system increases to 17 and to help manage remand pressures.”

“When 17-year-olds have access to the youth court system, including culturally appropriate venues such as Rangatahi and Pasifika Courts, it’s estimated that re-offending among those who would otherwise have appeared in an adult court will fall by 15%,” says Associate Minister for Justice and Courts William Sio.

Other justice services receiving support are:

  • Victim support services will get $13.5 million extra operating funding over four years so that victims of crime can access crisis response and long-term social support services. There will also be some financial assistance to help people with costs associated with being a victim of crime, including support for victims to participate in the criminal justice system.
  • The National Home Safety Service, which helps high-risk victims of family violence wanting to leave a violent relationship, will receive $7.7 million extra operating funding over the next four years. The service reduces future victimisation by helping people stay in their own homes with increased security features.
  • A new Family and Sexual Violence Central Agent has been allocated $2 million in new operating funding for 2018/19. The funding covers the preliminary policy work for setting up the agent, which will lead much needed coordination of public-sector and NGO effort to address domestic and sexual violence.

More police

Meanwhile, the Budget has provided new investment to lift the number of police officers.

“The Coalition Government’s police package, when fully rolled out, will deliver 1,800 new officers. It will enable the deployment of 1,100 police on the streets and 700 police to combat organised crime, supported by 485 non-sworn staff,” says Police Minister Stuart Nash.

“Budget 2018 takes the first steps towards that. It includes $298.8 million in new operating funding and $17.8 million capital for the Police over the next four years. In addition, $159.7 million of new funding is provided in 2022/23.

“These increases enable the recruitment of an extra 920 officers and 240 support staff to maintain and build on the 880 officers and 245 support staff announced in Budget 2017.