FLAC calls for clarity on legal aid review amid increasing demand for services
29 March 2022
Following the publication of the Department of Justice Plan 2022, legal rights NGO, FLAC have said that clarity is required on the commencement of the long overdue review of civil legal aid.
FLAC Chief Executive Eilis Barry said;
“Last year FLAC welcomed the Department of Justice’s commitment to a review of civil legal aid in Q3 2021. As we noted at the time, there has been growing demand for a root and branch review of the legal aid system. Such a review is long overdue – and is an essential part of improving access to justice and developing a modernised civil legal aid system."
Ms Barry went on to say,
“Flac, and other organisations on the ground who provide services to marginalised and vulnerable individuals, families and communities, face an ever-increasing demand on our services. In 2020 FLAC received 12,468 calls and supported 4,860 people in our free legal advice clinics, those figures are set to increase for 2021. We work consistently worked hard to meet an extremely high level of legal need with quality services but this is not a substitute for a fit-for-purpose civil legal aid system."
Stephanie Lord, Legal and Policy Officer with FLAC said today,
“We were dismayed that this review did not commence as proposed in Q3 of last year, but remained optimistic for early 2022 as referenced by the Minister in the Dáil. However, 'Justice Plan 2022' which was published yesterday now suggests there will be “progress” on the review in Q4 2022 - this is over a year longer than originally planned. This does not speak to the urgency required in the commencement of this review of the Civil Legal Aid system in this country."
In July 2021, FLAC and 44 other NGOs wrote to the Minister about the planned review. We requested that the review, when it takes place is a root and branch review, comprehensive in scope and designed to map unmet legal need; It should explore the functions of the Legal Aid Board (including functions such as the provision of information,advocacy, education and research); the eligibility criteria for legal aid (including the means test, and financial contributions), the areas of law covered – discrimination, domestic violence, housing, sexual harassment; and the methods of service delivery (such as community law centres, targeted/specialised legal services for disadvantaged groups and individuals. It must be an independent review chaired by a person of status, such as a judge with an interest in access to justice (such as the original Pringle Committee).
Stephanie Lord, Legal and Policy Officer with FLAC said that organisation had written to the Minister about this matter today -
“FLAC is ready to support the work of the review and we have requested a meeting with the Minister/Department to discuss the matter, as we are keen to understand the reasons for the delay in commencing it. We are also requesting further information and what form the review will take when it is established.”
FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is an Irish human rights organisation, which exists to promote equal access to justice. As an NGO, FLAC relies on a combination of statutory funding, contributions from the legal professions and donations from individuals and grant-making foundations to support its work.
FLAC offers basic legal information through its telephone information line on 01 906 10 10.
Our phone line operates Monday to Friday from 9.30am-1pm. With an additional phone line information service on Monday evenings from 7-9pm for callers who cannot call during the morning.
FLAC provides legal advice directly to members of both the Roma Community and The Irish Traveller Community via specialist legal clinics. FLAC also campaigns on a range of issues including consumer credit, personal debt, and fairness in social welfare law, public interest law and civil legal aid.
Civil Legal Aid is a priority area campaign for FLAC.
Further information on this priority area is available here https://www.flac.ie/priorityareas/civil-legal-aid/
Further information on the letter sent by FLAC and 44 other NGOS (including the full list of Signatories) sent to The Minister for Justice on the matter of the Civil Legal Aid Review in July 2021 is available here https://www.flac.ie/news/2021/07/29/43-ngos-and-advocates-join-flacs-call-on-justice-m/