Cash-strapped Legal Aid Centre:
Cabinet proposes temporary, long-term measures
-- objective is to make legal aid, services to victims of domestic violence available in the 10 regions

Guyana Chronicle
January 30, 2003

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CABINET has been informed of the funding problem threatening the operations of the Legal Aid Centre.

Consequently, at its meeting Tuesday, this matter was discussed and a temporary relief measure was proposed.

However, according to Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon, Cabinet is looking at the formulation of a more comprehensive approach to ensure that legal aid is not limited to residents of Georgetown, but that it also reaches the poor communities in all the administrative regions.

"Funding problems have been brought to the Government's attention and ultimately the Cabinet's attention, in the provision of legal aid and support to Guyanese provided by (the) Help and Shelter (organisation)", he said.

"The situation has indeed, to both of these NGOs, been extremely parlous. Cabinet considered those interventions. In the case of legal aid, funding has been provided in an interim -- a temporary measure, during which time Cabinet's intention is to provide legal aid to a larger cross-section of Guyanese poor and indigent; definitely to move beyond Georgetown and to provide support to other regions", he said.

"That intention would be the basis for the creation of a suitable Government-supported mechanism, that would ultimately replace (the present arrangement), or within which some legal aid contributions would fall. So, in the legal aid sector, (there would be) a temporary breathing space, while the interested parties collaborate to put forward a comprehensive design for the provision of legal aid across Guyana," Luncheon reported.

With respect to the Help and Shelter body, he acknowledged that the situation is similar to that of the Legal Aid Centre.

He said Cabinet has requested the Minister of Labour, Human Services and Social Security to provide a plan of action for the next Cabinet meeting.

"Help and Shelter, of course, has had the same problem with provision of support to battered spouses and other members of the families that succumb to violence, and, here again, the provision to make the interventions more comprehensive.

"And with that in mind, the Minister of Labour, Human Services and Social Security has been mandated to provide a plan of action for the next Cabinet meeting, outlining a proposed way forward, to have state reporting and the broad community inputs to have a truly comprehensive arrangement for supporting the victims of domestic violence," he told reporters.

Help and Shelter, a haven for abused women and their children will close its doors tomorrow because it has run out of cash to keep the facility operational.

A release from Help and Shelter this week noted that the agency regretfully announced the coming closure of the shelter at the end of this month.

"Our Crisis Service at Homestretch Avenue, Georgetown, will however, continue to remain open as usual from 08:00 hours to 16:30 hours Monday to Friday, as will our Hotlines 227-3454 and 231-7249.

"The Court support work will continue as well as public education activities with the different groups we work with. The public is reminded that all our services are free," the release stated.

It continued: "We hope that the closure will be only temporary and that our ongoing efforts to obtain the necessary funding to cover shelter operating costs will soon be successful."

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