Legal Aid lawyers in Wagga are preparing for a possible increase in debt and accommodation issues when JobKeeper and the coronavirus supplement end later this month.
Although JobSeeker rates will rise by $50 per fortnight on pre-pandemic levels, they will still be substantially less than the rates paid since April last year because the coronavirus supplement will cease.
Civil lawyers from Legal Aid NSW provided almost 70,000 services to clients in the last financial year.
Almost 2000 services involved COVID-19 related issues, and Legal Aid expects that number to increase in the coming months.
Wagga lawyer Julie Maron said it seems the obvious answer to call a lawyer in situations such as being arrested or going through a divorce.
But, she explained, many people were unaware that financial stress could be a legal issue.
"We see people all the time for other problems, and they often don't realise that in some cases there are legal solutions for financial problems caused by hardship," Ms Maron said.
"Lawyers and financial counsellors can help negotiate payment plans with financial institutions or negotiate with landlords on behalf of tenants.
"Where fines are causing financial stress, we may be able to have those debts deferred, waived or cleared through a Work and Development Order."
One of Ms Maron's recent clients lost his job at the beginning of the pandemic while paying for expensive rent and a car loan.
She added that he could not afford both, so he stopped the repayments on his car.
"When the banks called, he just didn't answer," Ms Maron said.
"He was trying so hard to find a job. In the end, the bank ended up taking him to court, and he only came to us when he got the court papers.
"We were able to help him, but we would have been able to help him far earlier on."
Ms Maron emphasised that Legal Aid cannot offer financial advice, but they can provide legal assistance to those struggling after a loss or decrease in income.
"Our message here is - if you find yourself in financial hardship, don't panic. Seek advice, and seek it early."
Advice on financial hardship problems can be found at:
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