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Access to Jus­tice

 
Access to Justice

The Access to Jus­tice project of the LRC allows those who can­not afford legal ser­vices to have access to legal assis­tance to defend their rights.
Sta­tis­tics released by Sta­tis­tics SA show that 52% of the peo­ple in rural areas are unem­ployed and 32,2% of house­holds in these areas depend on gov­ern­ment grants as their main source of income. Many of these peo­ple can­not deal with the enor­mous dif­fi­cul­ties they face with­out access to the legal jus­tice sys­tem.

Even today, in the sec­ond decade of democ­racy, access to jus­tice remains some­thing that the major­ity of South Africans can­not even dream about. The rea­sons include the high level of poverty and asso­ci­ated mar­gin­al­i­sa­tion, par­tic­u­larly in the rural areas, lack of infra­struc­ture and State capac­ity, the scarcity of legal skills in impov­er­ished areas, illit­er­acy and igno­rance of what the Bill of Rights and the Con­sti­tu­tion enti­tles peo­ple to.

In order to give effect to the poten­tial trans­for­ma­tion that the Con­sti­tu­tion seeks to bring about, to pro­vide every­one with the right to have any dis­pute that can be resolved by the appli­ca­tion of law decided in “a fair pub­lic hear­ing”, and to ful­fill the require­ments of many Acts of the demo­c­ra­tic Par­lia­ment that imply or explic­itly endorse the need for legal aid in civil mat­ters legal advice in civil mat­ters is essen­tial. We believe that it is a cor­ner­stone of devel­op­ment and democ­racy.

In many cases the LRC has been the only organ­i­sa­tion able to pro­vide basic legal assis­tance which makes a dif­fer­ence between jus­tice and the total lack thereof for many.

The LRC’s Access to Jus­tice work has the fol­low­ing objec­tives:

  • To increase access by poor and mar­gin­al­ized com­mu­ni­ties to the legal sys­tem
  • To edu­cate and bring knowl­edge of the law to as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble
  • To sup­port advice offices so they can bet­ter oper­ate on their own by pro­vid­ing legal infor­ma­tion
  • To pro­vide train­ing to para­le­gals, includ­ing those from advice offices, to enable legal advice and edu­ca­tion to com­mu­ni­ties
  • To empower rural com­mu­ni­ties so as enable them to access the trans­for­ma­tive ben­e­fits and pro­tec­tions inher­ent in the Con­sti­tu­tion

Ulti­mately the LRC’s inter­ven­tion gives impov­er­ished peo­ple and com­mu­ni­ties an oppor­tu­nity to access and imple­ment their con­sti­tu­tional rights.

Front desk ser­vice

Through our front desk ser­vice we pro­vide assis­tance to walk-in clients and are often able to help through the refer­ral of mat­ters to law clin­ics, advice cen­tres and rel­e­vant gov­ern­ment and non-government agen­cies. The Access to Jus­tice work also assists us in iden­ti­fy­ing cases with sig­nif­i­cant poten­tial impact on the law and jus­tice in areas that the LRC focuses on.

Key issues

Our Access to Jus­tice work deals directly with a wide vari­ety of issues includ­ing pen­sion and insur­ance inquiries, con­sumer pro­tec­tion cases, unem­ploy­ment insur­ance claims, workmen’s’ com­pen­sa­tion claims and chil­dren requir­ing place­ment.

Net­work­ing and advo­cacy

The LRC seeks to increase the shar­ing of infor­ma­tion and net­work­ing with a range of orga­ni­za­tions involved in pub­lic inter­est law and para­le­gal work. Together with other NGOs, Com­mu­nity Advice Cen­tres, the Legal Aid Board and uni­ver­sity law clin­ics, the LRC has formed a num­ber of infor­mal clus­ters through which to assist peo­ple who seek legal advice. Such approaches also assist with regard to refer­rals.

Advice offices
The LRC con­tin­ues to inter­act with advice offices in cer­tain areas. It is recog­nised that there is a need to estab­lish a com­mon approach to the way in which Advice Offices are ser­viced and to con­sider the pos­si­ble impact of the estab­lish­ment of Jus­tice Cen­tres and other gov­ern­ment service/information cen­tres on their work.

One of the objec­tives is to strengthen Advice Offices by pro­vid­ing them with train­ing and legal sup­port. The inter­ac­tion with Advice Offices includes tele­phonic con­tact that is some­times fol­lowed up with an exchange of doc­u­ments on the basis of which spe­cific sup­port can ensue.

The LRC has expe­ri­enced a reduc­tion in the num­ber of files brought back to our offices for fur­ther atten­tion. This is mainly as a result of the dire finan­cial sit­u­a­tion that many of the Advice Offices find them­selves in. In some sit­u­a­tions Advice Office staff do not have tele­phones, fax machines or even sta­tion­ary. These unfor­tu­nate cir­cum­stances directly affect those rural areas where these cen­tres offer the only pos­si­ble access to free legal assis­tance.

Work­shops and train­ing

One of the objec­tives is to strengthen Advice Offices by organ­is­ing train­ing which is con­ducted either by LRC staff or indi­vid­u­als with whom the LRC works closely. Some exam­ples of these are:

  • Admin­is­tra­tion of Estates, Cura­tor­ship and the Guardians Fund
  • HIV and AIDS
  • Para­le­gal organ­i­sa­tion and prac­tice

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National Offices

Tel: +27 11 836 9831
Email: info@lrc.org.za

Address: 15th and 16th Floor, Bram Fis­cher Tow­ers,
20 Albert Street, Mar­shall­town, Johan­nes­burg
PO Box 9495, Johan­nes­burg 2000

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