User support within the dispute resolution scheme

Users can be supported through the dispute resolution process formally by lawyers or advocates, or more informally by family or friends.

Legal representation

Your scheme should be designed if possible so it can be accessed and navigated by parties without the help of lawyers or advocates. Schemes will generally allow parties to use lawyers at their own cost. If you think that lawyers should be excluded from the process, you should seek legal advice (eg, about the possible implications under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990).

At a minimum, parties should be permitted to submit applications through an authorised representative and have support people present through any dispute resolution process.

Advocacy services

Your agency should consider whether any of the parties in dispute should be provided with advocacy services. There is more likely to be a need for these services if any of the parties are in vulnerable circumstances (eg, older people in retirement homes), have limited capabilities (eg, learning disabilities, language barriers), or where the process is complex and difficult to navigate.

If an advocacy service is seen to be necessary, you need to decide whether a new service needs to be established alongside the scheme, or whether an existing service can be used.

Existing services could include those provided by organisations such as the Citizens’ Advice Bureau or through the National Building Financial Capability Charitable Trust.

The Health and Disability Advocacy Service is an example of an advocacy service established as part of a dispute resolution scheme.

Health and Disability Advocacy Service(external link)