Community Outreach Programme
CCJD supports an outreach programme of fifteen community-based advice offices which provide access to justice to disadvantaged communities. Located in the interior of KwaZulu-Natal (see map opposite), the offices operate as independent NPOs with their own management committees. Together they employ twenty local women who are drawn from and live in the communities they serve. They have paralegal diplomas from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and an average of twelve years’ experience as paralegals.
CCJD provides assistance to the advice offices with fundraising, monitoring, bookkeeping and financial management, and with training in these areas. The intention is to help the offices to become fully independent in the next few years.
In 2016 CCJD’s fifteen affiliated advice offices attended to 4582 cases involving 8200 clients. The most common cases were domestic violence and legal advice on obtaining documents and financial entitlements such as pensions, retirement funds and grants. For the past ten years, these two issues have consistently been the most common that the advice offices have dealt with.
To tackle domestic violence, the paralegals conducted successful mediations in 790 cases, helping to bring an end to abuse. They also helped clients to obtain 471 protection orders.
In cases of legal advice, staff helped clients to obtain at least R 1.6 million in grants, pensions, maintenance, inheritances, insurance claims and retirement funds. These payments have benefitted approximately 250 people.
To educate people about their rights, staff gave 98 workshops to 4 220 adults and 179 presentations to 75 200 school learners.
In order to address clients’ problems, paralegal staff use the following strategies:
- They provide legal information in order to inform people of their rights and possible courses of action
- Where it is the client’s wish, they assist with out-of-court mediation and conflict resolution in cases of domestic violence and child maintenance
- They offer counselling to traumatised clients
- They work in partnership with government departments and private organisations in order to maximise the provision of services to clients and obtain financial entitlements and documents
- They conduct presentations and workshops in communities to educate them about their rights and how to access them, so that they can solve their problems independently
- They participate in community development and training projects
When conducting mediation in cases such as domestic abuse and child maintenance, the offices use the guidelines of the law to encourage parties to end disputes, and have a success rate of over 80%.
Referrals to appropriate institutions and agencies are supported by monitoring of the progress and outcome of the cases. If clients meet with difficulties or obstruction in claiming their rights, staff act on their behalf.
Community education is provided through presentations to children in schools and to adults at community venues. Support groups offer advice and encouragement to victims of domestic violence.
The main issues staff with are the abuse of women and children, and legal advice on obtaining financial entitlements and documents.
Unlike other advice offices in the province, the offices are based at police stations and magistrate courts. This is in order to offer convenient access for clients and to be able to work easily with criminal justice services – for example by helping clients to report a crime, assisting with counselling, taking statements and applying for protection orders. Since 1997 paralegal staff have attended to approximately 100,000 cases, dealing with an average of 5,000 a year.
Paralegals help rural communities, especially women and children, to use state services and private organisations to gain access to their legal rights and improve their lives. They enable disadvantaged individuals, who otherwise lack the knowledge or means, to learn about and use the law to solve their problems.
Rural communities face several obstacles when accessing the legal system, such as ignorance of their rights and a fear of secondary traumas when reporting crimes: for example, women fear having to report a crime to a man and being ignored and treated insensitively by police. There are cultural and historical constraints such as fear of the police and pressure to endure domestic violence without complaint, as well as a lack of money and transport with which to access services. The outreach program seeks to remove these barriers and to form a bridge between clients and their rights.