16 November 2010
Legal Aid South Africa has launched the Legal Aid Advice Line – 0860 LEGAL 8 (0860 534 258) – a call centre aimed at giving free legal advice on civil matters to poorer South Africans.
The 12 staff members at the centre, which has been operational since June, give expert advice on civil matters such as those relating to family, children and land. Where appropriate, they refer callers to justice centres or other organisations for further assistance.
The aim of the initiative is to help South Africans earning R5 000 or less a month, especially those in rural areas, with immediate legal advice.
So far, the call centre offers legal advice in five of South Africa’s 11 official languages.
“Legal Aid South Africa’s Legal Advice Line is a call centre of a special type,” Deputy Justice Minister Andries Nel said at the official launch in Johannesburg last week. “It is designed to further Legal Aid South Africa’s strategy to enhance access to justice for the poor and the vulnerable.”
Legal services for all
During the 2009/10 financial year, Legal Aid South Africa provided legal services at criminal courts across the country through its 64 Justice Centres and 63 satellite offices.
During this period, Legal Aid SA assisted in 416 149 new legal matters, including 387 121 criminal matters and 29 028 civil matters.
Legal Aid SA aims to expand its civil services, focusing to begin with on matters affecting vulnerable groups such as children, women and landless people, then expanding these to broader constituencies.
“The Legal Advice Line represents a significant milestone in the quest to extend access to justice to rural areas, where the cost of establishing justice centres and/or satellite offices might be prohibitive,” Nel said.
“The Legal Advice Line is the first of its kind in the country, and its formal opening is indeed cause for celebration.”
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