Legal centres face uncertain future

THE peak body for community legal services that helped more than 200,000 people last year has called on the Abbott government to clarify the future of its funding, due to expire in July.

A call from the National Association of Community Legal Centres comes as funding for the 190 centres around the country will expire in July, but no announcement of future funding is expected for eight weeks until the May budget.

While the government plans changes to the funding model for all centres, that money will instead go to state governments to pass on and the specific amounts and terms remain unclear.

NACLC chairman Michael Smith said while there was merit in reforming the funding model, the "impossible timeframe" set by the planned, but unexplained reforms were creating uncertainty.

"Community Legal Centres assist thousands of highly vulnerable and disadvantaged clients every week and these people will face huge uncertainty when they most need legal help," he said.

Mr Smith called on the government to defer the changes for a year, and to ensure funding that period.

He said that under the current timetable it was unrealistic that the centres could draft, negotiate and sign off on their own funding agreements.

Comment was sought from the Attorney-General.