Legal aid: Solicitor Jay Clowes and Coast Cancer representatives Andria Sylvester (left), Louisa Fitz-Gerald and Brenna Smith are helping cancer patients sort out their legal affairs.
Legal aid: Solicitor Jay Clowes and Coast Cancer representatives Andria Sylvester (left), Louisa Fitz-Gerald and Brenna Smith are helping cancer patients sort out their legal affairs. Trevor Veale

Big response to legal service

COFFS Coast cancer patients are so desperately in need of legal help that 28 of them have already made use of a service officially launched yesterday.

Since the Cancer Council Legal Referral Service began on a trial basis eight months ago, with local lawyers providing free legal services to cancer patients, Coffs Harbour has been the second-highest referring hospital in the state after Westmead.

This week sees the service lose its trial status and become a permanent service.

Solicitor Jay Clowes, from law firm Fishburn Watson O’Brien, who has been involved since the trial began, said wills were the legal service which patients wanted ‘unanimously’.

“In a lot of cases people also require powers of attorney to allow their spouse or carer to take charge of their financial affairs,” Mr Clowes said.

“That means the person diagnosed with cancer does not have to take care of the minutiae.

“Then there is the appointment of an enduring guardian to make a decision about treatment if the person cannot do that themselves.

Mr Clowes said patients’ reaction to the legal help offered was mostly relief.

“Surprisingly, it is usually quite a happy meeting,” he said.

“They have achieved a goal and they feel satisfaction and surety.”

The service was introduced after eight out of 10 hospital social workers found their patients could not access legal services due to cost, stress and sickness.

For details about the Cancer Council Legal Referral Service call 6659 8408 or www.cancercouncil.com.au.



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