South Coastal Counties Legal Services, Inc. (SCCLS) is a non-profit charitable corporation which serves clients in Barnstable, Bristol, Dukes, Nantucket and Plymouth Counties and the towns of Avon and Stoughton in Norfolk County in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Attorneys and paralegals represent poor and elderly clients with high priority legal problems. SCCLS also provides group representation and community education.
Advocates who work in our offices:
- Keep the government from denying or terminating clients’ subsistence cash assistance, food stamps, or medical benefits;
- Help families suffering from domestic violence gain safety and financial security;
- Help homeowners avoid foreclosure and tenants from being evicted, particularly from public and subsidized housing;
- Keep students from being unfairly suspended from school or denied an appropriate educational program;
- Assist people with disabilities receive appropriate benefits and services; and
- Provide a broad range of legal services to residents age 60 and over including assistance in housing, health care, medical and consumer issues.
Additionally, when our advocates see significant numbers of clients coming into our offices with a legal problem arising from wrongful private or governmental conduct affecting them in common, they go to the root cause of the problem and try to correct it for everyone. This may involve litigation on behalf of classes of individuals or client groups, community education, legislative advocacy, or administrative advocacy.
What We Do
SCCLS provides free legal help to low income and elderly clients in the following areas:
SCCLS' Seniors Law Project operates in the Bristol Elder Services area (Fall River and surrounding towns), the Coastline Elder Services area (New Bedford and surrounding towns) and the Old Colony Planning Council (Brockton and surrounding towns) and will provide legal representation and other services to individuals age 60 and older. Priority will be given to matters as set forth in the Older Americans Act: "income, health care, long-term care, nutrition, housing, utilities, protective services, defense of guardianship, abuse, neglect, and age discrimination."
In addition, SCCLS' Elder Law Project, whose lead attorney visits Cape and Islands senior centers weekly, provides legal services to elders who are economically or socially disadvantaged. Priority areas include housing, government benefits, Medicare, Medicaid, reverse mortgage counseling, and general health law concerns.
SCCLS' Benefits Unit helps clients obtain the government benefits to which they are entitled, including: TAFDC, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Emergency Assistance to the Elderly, Disabled and Children, Unemployment Compensation, Emergency Assistance, Fuel Assistance, and Veterans Services, by providing direct representation to clients before social services agencies and at administrative hearings. Food stamp advocacy is a priority to increase awareness of food stamp eligibility to low-income families.
SCCLS' Family Law unit includes the Battered Womens Legal Assistance Project. State funding allows SCCLS to take particularly difficult Probate and Family Court cases involving domestic violence. SCCLS provides representation for families on legal issues including divorce, child custody/visitation, child support and division of property.
SCCLS' services also include the Disability Benefits Project whose primary objective is to assist recipients of the states Emergency Assistance to the Elderly, Disabled and Children program in qualifying for Supplemental Security Income benefits, thus improving clients financial stability and access to health care; the Housing Unit which represents clients facing homelessness, lock-outs or utility terminations, evictions, discrimination, termination from subsidized housing programs and a special initiative of SCCLS is to help low-income people who are facing foreclosure on their homes. The Homeless Legal Services Project assists homeless individuals overcome legal barriers to housing.
The Education Advocacy Project goal is to make schools in the region more responsive to the many low-income students, foremost through individual representation of students who are dumped in low-expectation educational placements and ultimately pushed out of school. SCCLS continues to work to promote effective dropout prevention, improve low academic standards, increase parental involvement in education, and to fight for equal, non-discriminatory treatment for all students.