News & events


Community advice offices: A case for public funding to help fight poverty and inequality

10 May 2016
12:30 - 13:30

HSRC Seminar Series in collaboration with the Democracy Governance and Service Delivery (DGSD)

Date:      10 May 2016       
Time:     12:30  – 13:30
Venue:    VCRs, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth


Dr Yul Derek Davids: Democracy and Governance and Service Delivery (DGSD) programme, HSRC 
Len Verwey: Research Associate

Despite advances in access to legal services, barriers continue to persist in democratic South Africa. Furthermore, these barriers are strongly associated with poverty, location, gender and education levels. The free basic legal advice services and human rights information provided by Community advice offices (CAOs) are therefore important particularly to people who are marginalised because of poverty, social circumstances and geographical location. However, CAOs deliver their services by utilising scarce community resources as well as relying on already overworked paralegals and volunteers. In the literature the challenge of funding appears as the main challenge which plagues the CAO sector currently.

Other challenges include the absence of formal regulation, service standardization, adequate acknowledgement and recognition, and, as a result, uneven service provision in some instances. The funding challenge generates a range of problems not only for the sustainability of the sector, many of which relate to human resource capacity, including the inability of the sector to retain staff once they have received some basic training and work experience in the community context. This seminar therefore presents results from a study conducted in mid-2014 by the HSRC, which included field visits, staff focus group discussions and key staff interviews at 19 CAOs in five provinces, as well as 186 interviews with individual CAO service users.

The key findings of the study indicate that serious and urgent consideration should be given to the public funding of CAOs in South Africa, in the form of an annual core funding amount. Funding support should be accompanied by oversight of CAOs by an appropriate agency. However, state oversight must not compromise the independence of the overall management of CAOs.

The HSRC seminar series is funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST). The views and opinions expressed therein as well as findings and statements of the seminar series do not necessarily represent the views of DST.

Kindly RSVP by 25 April 2016

Cape Town : HSRC, 12th Floor, Plein Park Building (Opposite Revenue Office), Plein Street, Cape Town. Contact Jean Witten, Tel (021) 4668004,  Fax (021) 461 0299, or or Estelle Krishnan or Tel: 021 4668070

Durban :  The Atrium, 5th Floor, 430 Peter Mokaba Ridge, Berea, 4001 , Contact Ridhwaan Khan, Tel (031) 242 5400, cell: 083 788 2786 or or Hlengiwe Zulu at e-mail;

Pretoria : HSRC Video Conference, 1st floor HSRC Library Human Sciences Research Council, 134 Pretorius Street, Pretoria. Arlene Grossberg, Tel: (012) 302 2811, e-mail: