Legal rights NGO FLAC’s Annual Report shines a spotlight on huge unmet legal need and demand for early legal assistance
10 July 2023
The Hon. Mr Justice Frank Clarke, former Chief Justice of Ireland and Chair of the Civil Legal Aid Review Group, will launch FLAC’s 2022 Annual Report, ‘Bringing Access to Justice Together’, at 9:30am on Monday, 10 July 2023.
FLAC, the independent legal, equality and human rights organisation, works in numerous ways to promote the right of access to justice. Key headlines from 2022 include:
Early legal information and advice was provided through our Legal Information & Referral Telephone Line, which answered 13,556 calls in 2022
In our Free Legal Advice Clinics, volunteer lawyers provided legal advice to over 3,300 people
Over 4,400 people could not get through to FLAC’s Telephone Line due to overwhelming demand.
85 active casefiles in the areas of housing, social welfare and equality.
In advance of the launch, Eilis Barry, FLAC Chief Executive stated that:
“There is a huge unmet demand for early legal information and advice, especially in areas which have a significant effect on people’s day-to-day lives like family law and employment law.
While FLAC’s Telephone Line answered 13,556 calls in 2022, we are acutely aware and gravely concerned that at least 4,400 people could not get through to the Telephone Line. Another cause of concern is the sustained demand for employment law information and advice (including over 2000 callers to the FLAC Telephone Line) without anywhere to refer callers who cannot afford a private solicitor for legal representation. There is also nowhere to refer the 970 lay litigants who contacted FLAC and who are struggling to navigate the complex court system by themselves.
Through our casework, FLAC sees first-hand the dire consequences (including the risk of extreme poverty and homelessness) of unmet legal need in areas such housing, social welfare, and discrimination which are outside the scope of the current scheme of Civil Legal Aid.
Public legal assistance should act as a preventative safety net – resolving legal problems as early as possible and avoiding or minimising the impact that they have on people’s lives. The unacceptable gaps in the current system of Civil Legal Aid leaves people exposed to the serious, and potentially catastrophic, consequences of unmet legal need. FLAC cannot fill the gaps in the current system. We need to reimagine how the State provides public legal assistance and empower and resource State bodies such as the Legal Aid Board, the Citizens Information, and IHREC to provide preventative legal services.
FLAC operates an Independent Law Centre which takes cases in the public interest and runs a Roma Legal Clinic and Traveller Legal Service:
Housing, homelessness and eviction matters constitute a significant proportion of FLAC’s casework. In two cases, intervention by FLAC led to eviction notices being withdrawn. In three cases, access to appropriate emergency accommodation was restored after FLAC intervened.
FLAC acted for several Roma clients experiencing barriers and delays in accessing social welfare payments. Five such clients were either homeless or living in inadequate or over-crowded accommodation. In one case, a young Roma mother received a significant back-payment of One Parent Family Payment in respect of a lengthy period during which her claim had been wrongly refused.
During 2022, clients of FLAC were awarded a total of €48,500 in compensation for acts of discrimination by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) or as a result of settlement agreements in their favour:
o In a disability discrimination case, the WRC found that a bank’s refusal to engage with a customer through an ISL interpreter constituted unlawful discrimination and awarded FLAC’s client €8,500.
o A Traveller woman whose booking for a wedding venue was cancelled after the hotel discovered her ethnicity received €1,000 pursuant to a settlement agreement.
o Four Traveller sisters received €2,000 each pursuant to a settlement agreement after a hotel refused to honour their booking for a dinner to mark their mother’s anniversary.
o A Roma woman refused service and asked to leave a shop received €1,000 pursuant to a settlement agreement.
o The WRC ordered a waste management company to pay €2,000 in compensation for refusal to provide a skip at a halting site.
o The WRC ordered an Iceland supermarket to pay a total of €12,000 to a group of young Travellers who were publicly ordered to leave the shop and followed out by staff.
During 2022, FLAC engaged in a number of new access to justice initiatives:
FLAC, in collaboration with the Irish Network Against Racism, delivered training to empower non-legal advocates to support claimants taking discrimination cases on the race ground to the Workplace Relations Commission.
In May 2022, the FLAC LGBTQI+ Legal Clinic was launched, and 41 people received legal advice through the clinic during 2022. FLAC acts in four ongoing cases relating to access to Trans Healthcare.
FLAC is also undertaking research into unmet legal need in the LGBTQI+ community in Ireland.
FLAC also makes policy and law reform recommendations (informed by our experience of providing various forms of legal assistance):
FLAC made detailed submissions in relation housing rights (including by proposing specific wording for a constitutional right to adequate housing) and the proposed referendums on equality, family and care (including FLAC’s proposed wording for a new constitutional equality guarantee).
FLAC also published its final Pillar to Post paper which reviewed debt resolution mechanisms and debt support services in Ireland.
David Fennelly BL, FLAC Chairperson, commented:
“FLAC is an active participant in the current Civil Legal Aid Review and we hope that this annual report will inform the Review and its outcomes. As well as illustrating that new approaches to public legal assistance are possible and workable, this report makes it clear that achieving access to justice for all requires a range of measures from information to advocacy, training, representation, research and law reform.
It also requires innovation, responsiveness and, above all, collaboration. Throughout 2022, FLAC was pleased to work with our valued volunteers, law firms undertaking pro bono work, public bodies such as IHREC and CIB, FLAC Student Societies, barristers instructed by our Independent Law Centre, academics and other civil society and community organisations. The work and dedication of each of those groups leaves me with no doubt that, through the ongoing Review process and beyond, it is only by working together that we can ensure effective access to justice for all.”
Mr Justice Frank Clarke noted:
"While the Civil Legal Aid review group has not as yet reached any conclusions it seems to me that we have to closely consider the place that NGOs such as FLAC and others play in the overall delivery of appropriate legal assistance or representation to those who cannot afford it. It may well be that one size does not fit all and that an enhanced role for NGOs may be part of the solution. That, of course , raises the inevitable question of funding. Much good work by bodies such as FLAC is done by volunteers but adequate funding is also very neccessary."
Notes to Editor:
FLAC 2022 Annual Report is available to download at
If you would like to attend the launch details are below.
Date: Monday 10 July 2023
Venue: FLAC Office, 85/86 Dorset Street
Registration: Please email email@example.com to register or call 01 887 3600
FLAC’s Stakeholder Submission to the Review of the Civil Legal Aid Scheme is available here: https://www.flac.ie/assets/files/pdf/flac_civil_legal_aid_review_stakeholder_submission.pdf
FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is an independent legal, equality and human rights organisation which exists to promote equal access to justice. Our vision is of a society where everyone can access fair and accountable mechanisms to assert and vindicate their rights.
Operates a legal information and referral telephone line.
Runs a nationwide network of legal advice clinics where volunteer lawyers provide basic free legal advice.
Through the Public Interest Law Alliance (PILA), operates a Pro Bono Referral Scheme and engages the legal community and civil society in using the law to advance social change. The Pro Bono Referral Scheme facilitated 48 social justice organisations in receiving pro bono legal assistance during 2022.
As an Independent Law Centre takes cases in the public interest and runs a Roma Legal Clinic, an LGBTQI+ Legal Clinic and Traveller Legal Service.
Campaigns for policy and law reform in areas of law that most affect disadvantaged and marginalised people and communities through research and advocacy.
As a partner with INAR on the Equal Access Project (EAP), ran a training course for advocates to assist people in taking discrimination claims on the race ground to the WRC, funded by the European Union’s Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme (2014-2020).
Is a partner with the Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights at UCC on the Traveller, Equality and Justice Project, funded by the European Union’s Rights, Equality and Citizenship programme (2014-2020).
Telephone Information and Referral Line 2022 Statistics
FLAC provided legal information to 13,556 callers through its Telephone Information and Referral Line in 2022. We estimate that over 4,400 people didn’t get through and others only got through after calling repeatedly.
A record 4,136 family law queries were answered by FLAC’s Telephone Information and Referral Line, more than any previous year, accounting for almost one third of all calls received.
43% of family law queries were in relation to divorce or separation (1795), 30% in relation to custody, access or guardianship (1234), 19% in relation to maintenance (802), almost 13% in relation to domestic violence (515) and 12% in relation to the family home (509).
Roughly one third of all appointments (1263) in FLAC clinics in 2022 were in relation to a family law query.
2,063 employment law calls were logged in 2022, which was an increase of 5% on the previous year.
One third of all employment law queries were in relation to contract terms (660), while 16% were in relation to dismissals (332). Roughly 10% of employment law calls were about grievance procedures (217), a further 10% were about redundancy (214) and another 10% were about bullying/harassment (197).
Queries about dismissals rose by 24% compared with the previous year.
One-quarter of all appointments (883) in FLAC Clinics in 2022 were in relation to an employment law query.
970 calls to the Information Line in 2022 were from lay litigants, 7% of all calls, which was an increase of 15% on the number of lay litigant callers contacting the FLAC Telephone Information Line the previous year, and the highest number of lay litigants contacting FLAC since we started recording this category in 2016.
FLAC Legal Advice Clinic Statistics
3,318 consultations were held
1263 (38%) callers had a family law query
Almost half of service users with a family law query were seeking legal advice in relation to a divorce or separation (48%), which was a 20% increase on the number of service users seeking legal advice in this area.
33% of service users with a family law query were seeking legal advice in relation to custody, access or guardianship, which was a 21% increase on the previous year.
833 (25%) of callers had an employment law query
Roughly one-third of service users (31.5%) with an employment law query were seeking advice in relation to an employment contract, an increase of 2.7% on the previous year.
22% of service users with an employment law query were seeking advice in relation to dismissal, an increase of 4.5% on the previous year.