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Unreliable Ministry Figures a Smokescreen

Media Release 20 December 2012

Unreliable Ministry Figures a Smokescreen

“Figures showing a reduction in Community Law clients are just plain wrong and are being used as a smokescreen at a time when decisions are being made on Community Law’s future funding”, says Liz Tennet, CEO of Community Law Centres o Aotearoa (CLCA), the national body representing 24 Community Law Centres around New Zealand.

Statistics released by the Ministry of Justice show a decline of 37,356 in client numbers from June 2009 to June 2012.

“The figures are absolute rubbish”, says Ms Tennet. “At a time of economic recession, the number of clients being assisted by the 24 Community Law Centres has actually gone up”.

“What the Ministry figures don’t count are a significant numbers of clients given assistance over the phone, and the half million hits per year from New Zealanders seeking information off the Community Law website, http://www.communitylaw.org.nz/

“But what is most disturbing is the unreliability of the Ministry’s own database and the Ministry–directed changes over the last four years to the way Community Law Centres must record their statistics. In 2009 the figures included website hits, in 2012 they do not. In 2009 the figures included pamphlet and leaflet distribution at expos and shows, in 2012 they do not.

“The Ministry’s database is a dog. It is now over 7 years old, it has been very difficult to amend entry errors, it has created inaccuracies and it has caused immense frustration to the sector. The Ministry has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars upgrading the database, but it is no longer fit for purpose.

“One of New Zealand’s 24 Community Law Centres, Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley, submitted to MoJ its final Quarterly Reports each year showing the following number of clients assisted:-

• 2009 – 4424 clients

• 2010 – 5242 clients

• 2011 – 6061 clients

• 2012 – 6522 clients

“These numbers show no relevance to the numbers recently released by MoJ off their database. The Ministry numbers are patently wrong.

“The Ministry itself has acknowledged the unreliability of its database and has agreed there needs to be introduced a new client management system for Community Law. This has been agreed by a joint Ministry/Community Law Working Party.

“Community Law has had no funding increase over the last four years and through efficiency gains has decreased its average cost of service delivery from $95.36 per hour in 2008/09 to $70.41 per hour in 2011/12. This has been delivered as a result of a substantial increase in the number of service delivery hours.

“Community Law also delivers huge value. 1200 volunteer lawyers massively expand Community Law’s footprint and provide additional value of $3.8m per year. Community Law Casework alone is valued at $36.23m per year and Community Law’s early intervention service has been estimated to save at least $7.3m per year of taxpayer court costs from just a 1% reduction in the use of courts.

“The Ministry of Justice is demonstrating itself as another Government Agency with deficient data collection”, says Ms Tennet.


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