BLOG: How to know if you are being discriminated against while applying for the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP)?

In October 2022, Crosscare and Community Law & Mediation (CLM) had a successful outcome in relation to a discrimination case between a tenant and her landlord, who claimed that his tenant’s flat was in such poor condition and needed repairs carried out, that he could not sign a Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) form. The adjudication officer in the case found that the landlord had discriminated against his tenant under the housing assistance ground of the Equal Status Act.

Discrimination on the housing assistance ground is an alarming practice that can have long terms impacts on a person’s life, including poverty and mental health problems. 

At CLM we want to ensure that you know your rights when it comes to accessing HAP and what to do if you are discriminated against when trying to access it.

Jargon Buster
Social HousingSocial housing  is housing provided by a local authority or an approved housing body to people who are assessed as being eligible and in need of social housing support. .
Housing Assistance Payment (HAP)A form of social housing support.
Rent Supplement SchemeA means-tested payment for certain people living in private rented accommodation who cannot provide for the cost of their accommodation from their own resources.
Workplace Relations Commission (WRC)A public body which hears all industrial relations disputes, disputes about employment laws and disputes about equality issues. The overall objective of the WRC is to deliver a world-class workplace relations service and employment rights framework for employers and employees.
Rental Tenancies Board (RTB)A public body set up to support and develop a well-functioning rental housing sector. It also hears disputes that arise between landlords, tenants and third parties.
DiscriminationThe unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, for example on the grounds of race, age, sex, disability, housing assistance etc
AdjudicationThe investigation procedure in the WRC through which   an individual, known as the Adjudication Officer,  reviews evidence and arguments, including legal reasoning set forth by opposing parties , to come to a decision which determines rights and obligations between the parties involved.

What is the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP)?

HAP is a relatively new form of social housing support provided by all local authorities. Anyone with long term housing needs can qualify for HAP.

Under HAP, local authorities will make a monthly payment to a landlord, subject to terms and conditions including rent limits, on a HAP tenant’s behalf. In return, the HAP tenant pays a weekly contribution towards the rent to the local authority. This ‘rent contribution’ is based on the household income.

Do I qualify for the HAP?

Your local authority can determine your eligibility for HAP. Below are the people who can apply for the HAP:

  • Any household that qualifies for social housing support, and is not currently housed by their local authority, can apply for HAP.
  • Current Rent Supplement recipients who qualify for social housing support will be transferred from Rent Supplement to HAP on a phased basis.

Contact your local authority here to see if you are eligible for HAP.

Can my landlord refuse to accept HAP?

Under the Equal Status Acts, it is against the law for your landlord/letting agent to refuse to accept HAP.  

You cannot be discriminated against when renting because you are getting Rent Supplement, HAP or any  other social welfare payment. This is known as discrimination on the “housing assistance” ground.  Discrimination on the “housing assistance” ground may arise if your landlord/letting agent refuses to accept Rent Supplement or HAP, or refuses to complete the necessary forms to enable you to receive Rent Supplement or HAP.

However, in 2021, Threshold reported that discrimination by landlords over HAP had doubled since the first half of 2020.

Case Study: What to do if you are discriminated against while applying for HAP:

Our client who will be unnamed due to her refugee status, made a recent complaint with the help of Community Law & Mediation to the WRC as she felt that she had been discriminated by her landlord under the “housing assistance ground” of the Equal Status Acts while applying for HAP. Her landlord refused to sign her HAP form which would have allowed her to transition from the rent supplement payment to HAP.

The tenant wanted to transition from one payment to the other, as she was unable to work above 30 hours on the rent supplement scheme, whereas she could work more hours on the HAP payment. She was eligible for the payment, however, her landlord still refused to sign her HAP form. Our client reached out to Crosscare for assistance and, with the help of CLM, she brought her complaint to the WRC.

Background:

In 2018, our client received a letter from the Department of Social Protection which recommended that she could increase her working hours by switching from the rent supplement scheme to  HAP. With this opportunity, she began requesting that her landlord sign the forms to allow her to transition from one payment to the other.

Each week when her landlord collected rent, she requested that he sign her HAP form – to which he refused, using excuses such as the flat would need repairs before she could apply for the payment. Her neighbours were served eviction notices so that repairs could be carried out on their flats, but she never received a notice for repairs in her flat. She described her flat as “black with damp” and only minor repairs have been made.

In 2019, she asked her landlord to sign the HAP form again, but her landlord sent her a letter notifying her of a rent increase from €480 to €700 from October 2019, stating that HAP would be “acceptable” from that point onwards. When she sought an increase in rent supplement, the Department of Social Protection refused stating that the actions her landlord were taking were “unlawful” because of the rental cap. Again, her landlord told her that he could not sign the HAP form because of the repairs that needed to be carried out in the flat.

It is evident that between 2018 and 2020, our client had asked her landlord multiple times to sign her HAP form. Each time her landlord refused using excuses, such as, he had lost the form and that the repairs had still not been carried out.

The impact of this prolonged conflict with her landlord resulted in the tenant seeking advice on what she could do in her situation and what her rights as a tenant are.

How to bring a case to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC)?

If you are bringing a claim under the Equal Status Acts, you will need to first complete and send a Form ES1 to your landlord. This should be sent by registered post within 2 months of the date of the alleged act of discrimination.

Thereafter, you need to fill out the WRC’s online form to submit the claim to the WRC. You must make your complaint to the WRC within 6 months of the date of the alleged breach of the Act. In certain limited circumstances this can be extended by a further 6 months if there is reasonable cause for the delay.

Example

In 2020, Crosscare assisted our client by writing to her landlord giving him 10 days to sign the form, however, the landlord told Crosscare he ‘threw it away’.

Crosscare assisted her with completing an ES1 form, which asked the landlord for  an explanation as to why he is refusing HAP. On two occasions the landlord returned the form, marking it with ‘returned not delivered’. Our client attempted to give her landlord this form in person, to which he responded that we would not accept it.

This left our client with little options other than making a complaint to the WRC with the assistance of Crosscare and Community Law & Mediation.

In 2021, our client’s tenancy came to an end following a complaint to the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB). As a result, in the process of making her WRC complaint, with setbacks from the COVID-19 pandemic, our client had lost both financial and housing security.

Outcome:

The WRC found in favour of our client and awarded her  €10,000 in compensation. The WRC acknowledged that the case was on the “more serious end of the scale” and “As a direct consequence of the Respondent’s refusal to complete/sign the HAP Form, [our client] was effectively stuck in a poverty trap in sub-standard accommodation”.

By definition, recipients of the HAP are more vulnerable than other members of society. Due to the real and tangible impacts this had on the our client’s life, the WRC Adjudication Officer felt that the award of €10,000 was fair.

The maximum award that can be given is €15,000, however the WRC Adjudication Officer took into consideration that the landlord is a small landlord.

The challenges of bringing a case like this to the Workplace Relations Commission
(WRC)?

Although our client who brought her case to the WRC had a significantly positive outcome, it can be difficult for anybody to go through such a process; from her first request for her landlord to sign her HAP form to taking a complaint to the WRC.  These obstacles include bringing a claim to the WRC within a very tight timeline, navigating the WRC adjudication process and presenting legal arguments to the WRC.

Our client repeatedly explained the impact of this discriminatory treatment on her life. The Adjudication Officer recognised that she had suffered financial loss, distress, inconvenience and upset  As well as this, she is currently living in emergency accommodation where she has explained the impact this has on her mental health.

Statement from Community Law & Mediation and Crosscare:

“Community Law & Mediation welcome this decision from the Workplace Relations Commission and extend our thanks to James Kane BL and Crosscare for their work in achieving this outcome.

This case highlights the devastating and long-terms impacts that discrimination on housing assistance grounds can have on people, including undermining a person’s dignity, their employment opportunities and their ability to fully participate in society. Trends from our free legal advice clinics indicate that discrimination against people in receipt of HAP is systemic, which is preventing people from accessing and maintaining rented homes.

This case also highlights the barriers to justice and the ineffectiveness of the remedy that is available people who have been discriminated against on housing assistance grounds. People who are trying to secure or maintain a rented home face the risk of being made homelessness, and may not be in a position to bring a claim to the WRC for discrimination, particularly without the legal assistance. Furthermore, the redress available (i.e. financial compensation) may not ultimately assist a person in securing or maintaining a home, given the current rental market

In light of the Government’s ongoing review of the Civil Legal Aid Scheme and the equality laws, we are calling for the Civil Legal Aid Scheme to be extended to cover claims of discrimination in the WRC, and for the equality laws to be reformed to provide for interlocutory relief.”

  • Mary Heavey, Community Law & Mediation

“Crosscare strongly welcomes this decision from the Workplace Relations Commission, which recognises the discrimination against our client by the landlord, which resulted in severe hardship and loss of income. 

We want to thank our Community Law and Mediation colleagues for their exceptional work on this case.

The ruling from the WRC confirms the severe breaches of our client’s basic rights and entitlements – to have a decent home and access support to prevent homelessness, sustain her employment and aid her family’s journey out of poverty.

This case highlights the ongoing need for advocacy and support for vulnerable households living through a housing crisis that has created huge inequalities and imbalances, with tenants feeling powerless and afraid of losing their homes.

We spend much time and resources on similar cases where clients are often reluctant to address matters with their landlords. They need much support in negotiating that relationship and navigating an often-complex housing system. 

Crosscare Information and Advocacy has a core focus on homelessness prevention and keeping people in sustainable homes.  The outcome in this instance demonstrates the impact this service can have regarding housing standards, enabling tenants and encouraging landlords to meet their obligations. In the current challenging times, it is critical that funding for homeless prevention services is a priority.” 

  • Noel Neenan, Crosscare

How can Community Law & Mediation help me if I am being discriminated against during the HAP process?

Our free legal advice clinics run on a monthly basis and are open to everyone. We provide free legal advice in Ireland in the areas of employment, social welfare, housing, family, child law and environmental justice. General queries are also welcome. So if you are having problems accessing your social welfare entitlements, if you are experiencing problems in the workplace, or if you are afraid of losing your home, we are here to help.

As well as our free legal advice clinics, we provide a free legal advocacy service for individuals who need help accessing their legal rights and entitlements. Additionally, we offer representation including court and tribunal representation in areas of law not catered for by the Civil Legal Aid Scheme.

To avail of our legal services, contact us via our phoneline on 01 847 7804 (Dublin) or 061 536 100 (Limerick) or email info@communitylawandmediation.ie. We offer phone and in-person appointments.

If you feel that you are being discriminated against, please see our legal and mediation services HERE.

Pilot scheme a welcome development for equality in education for students with visual impairments

Community Law & Mediation (CLM) welcomes the decision by the State Examinations Commission to commence a pilot scheme enabling visually-impaired students to access digital versions of their exam papers.

The decision was made on foot of a lengthy campaign by Eithne Walsh, head of advocacy and communication with Féach, whose son is a visually impaired student and is due to sit the Leaving Certificate in 2023.

Eithne and her son had repeatedly requested that he be provided with a digital copy of his Leaving Certificate examination – to date, only paper-based exams have been allowed – but their requests were refused by the State Examinations Commission (SEC). CLM provided legal advocacy support to the family, and wrote to the SEC highlighting the fact that that it was acting in breach of its statutory duty under s.6 and s.7 of the Education Act 1998 and that its refusal to provide reasonable accommodation was a breach of the student’s rights to equality, education, and his imprescriptible rights as a child.

While the announcement of a pilot scheme is really positive news, this addresses just one of the many obstacles faced by students with visual impairments. For example, they do not currently have the same level of access to past (modified) papers that their fellow students have; the format of the oral examinations is particularly challenging for students who are visually impaired;  and decisions made under the Reasonable Accommodations at Certificate Examinations (RACE) Scheme are often published at short notice, leaving the students affected with little time to appeal if they do not get the supports they need under the Scheme.

Community Law & Mediation will continue to advocate on behalf of families and young people who are affected by issues such as these.

If you have a query related to the education rights of your child, contact us for free legal advice: 01 847 7804.

Welcome new strategy for family justice reform but much work needed to deliver a truly child-centered system

Community Law & Mediation (CLM) welcomes the commitment in the Family Justice Strategy, published today by the Department of Justice, to place children at the centre of reform but cautions that the delivery of a truly child-centered family justice system cannot be achieved without consistent application of this commitment, including in the newly published Family Court Bill. CLM, which provides a dedicated children’s legal advice and advocacy service, was a member of the expert advisory group on the Family Justice Strategy.

Commenting on the announcement, Ruth Barry, solicitor specialising in children’s law at CLM said:

“Family law proceedings are often highly adversarial and can be re-traumatising for both children and other family members. We welcome the new strategy, in particular the commitment to place children at the centre of reform. While the strategy does not yet fully address problematic areas like civil legal aid, expert reports furnished to court or hearing the voice of the child, it provides a framework for moving forward.

The express recognition of children’s best interests in the Family Court Bill is particularly welcome, as is the intention to create a dedicated Family Court within the existing court structure but we have some concerns about how this will be delivered in practice. Jurisdiction in private family law is determined based on the financial assets of the family and the Bill contains no provision for  complex high conflict private family law cases – where care of a child or children is the source of the complexity – to be directed to the Circuit Court. This will be at odds with complex childcare proceedings concerning child protection.

Furthermore, the Bill doesn’t provide for the separation of public and private family law proceedings in the court lists of the new family law courts with the effect that families and children who are in court to address child protection issues may have their cases listed alongside families and children who are in court to address custody and access.

CLM would welcome a review of the Family Court Bill from the perspective of the child’s experience – a review based on the child being at the centre of all reform in the area – in order that we ensure we set solid foundations for this reform process and start as we mean to continue.” 

ENDS

For further information please contact Elizabeth Devine, Policy & Communications Manager, Community Law & Mediation – ph 087 697 5677

Notes to Editor:

About Community Law & Mediation

Community Law & Mediation (CLM) was established in 1975 as the first independent community law centre in Ireland, as part of the campaign for civil legal aid. Today, is support more than 4,400 people in communities experiencing disadvantage through free legal advice and representation; information and education; and mediation and conflict coaching services. It provides a dedicated children’s legal advice and advocacy service, including an outreach clinic for children and young people in care, in collaboration EPIC. www.communitylawandmediation.ie

Community Law & Mediation calls upon Irish government to include recommendations in 2023 Climate Action Plan  

Community Law & Mediation’s Centre for Environmental Justice issues 8 recommendations to government, ahead of the publication of the highly anticipated 2023 Climate Action Plan.

Today Community Law & Mediation sent an open letter to the Minister for Climate, Environment and Communications, Eamon Ryan. The letter calls upon the Government to align the forthcoming Climate Action Plan 2023 with Ireland’s legal obligations on climate change, while addressing the energy crisis and safeguarding marginalised communities.

The recommendations are supported by 19 partner organisations working in the area of environmental and social justice. The six-page letter sets out science-based recommendations which the Irish government should include in the 2023 Climate Action Plan. A summary of these recommendations is:

Holding all sectors accountable in meeting Ireland’s legally-binding 2021-2025 carbon budget:

The organisations are calling for the government to ensure the immediate implementation of Ireland’s 2021-2025 carbon budget, the inclusion of all sectors in the Sectoral Emissions Ceilings, and the publication of the Long-Term Climate Action Strategy in accordance with EU and national law.

  • One-third of Ireland’s legally-binding five-year carbon budget period (2021-2025) has already passed, yet Ireland’s emissions rose by 5% last year and may increase in 2022.
  • Not all sectors are included within the carbon budget framework – most notably, “Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry,” and Aviation and Shipping. The total amount of greenhouse gases across all sectors therefore cannot be assessed, and there is no certainty that Ireland will meet its firstlegally binding carbon budget.
  • Ireland is one of only four countries that has failed to produce a Long-Term Climate Action Strategy and the European Commission recently issued a formal notice to Ireland as the Strategy is now more than two and a half years overdue.

Addressing the energy crisis:

Energy poverty is at its highest recorded rate in Ireland. The organisations are calling upon the Irish government to implement measures in the Climate Action Plan 2023 to eradicate both energy poverty and energy pollution, such as, doubling the Fuel Allowance Scheme and broadening its eligibility criteria, retrofitting Ireland’s entire social housing stock this decade, introducing a new caravan rental scheme which incorporates BER equivalent efficiency standards and providing free and reliable public transport across Ireland. In addition, the organisations are calling for the current moratorium on Liquefied Natural Gas and fracked gas imports, to be made permanent through legislation, alongside an immediate moratorium on the development of data centres until an assessment of what is needed to meet the carbon budget from 2021-2025 is carried out.

Safeguarding vulnerable communities in the transition to a completely decarbonised society:

In Ireland, the top 10% of the population contributed about one third of the cumulative carbon emissions between 1990 and 2015. Low-income households and marginalised groups who are least responsible for the climate crisis are at risk of being most impacted by both climate change and climate action. The organisations are therefore calling for the Climate Action Plan 2023 to address inequality and ensure that the cost of climate mitigation and adaptation measures do not fall on marginalised and vulnerable groups.

In addition, the Irish government must immediately establish a National Just Transition Commission, in advance of formal legislation, based on social dialogue and comprised of representatives of government, trade unions, employers, affected communities and civil society. The aim of this is to ensure that affected workers and communities are not left behind in the transition to a completely decarbonised economy and society.

Clodagh Daly, Community Law & Mediation’s Centre for Environmental Justice Manager, said: “It is imperative that the Irish government commits to deep and sustained reductions in emissions in the Climate Action Plan 2023. Action must be consistent with our legally-binding 2021-2025 carbon budget and must aim to actively address inequality and energy poverty, such as retrofitting our entire social housing stock this decade and providing free and reliable public transport across Ireland. As part of this, the establishment of the Just Transition Commission must be accelerated. We must ensure that everyone in Ireland – and worldwide – can live a decent life within a fully decarbonised society.”

Martin Collins, Co-Director of Pavee Point Traveller & Roma Centre, said: “Pavee Point Traveller & Roma Centre endorses this call on the Government to strengthen the Climate Action Plan 2023. It is well documented that the effects of the climate crisis are inextricably linked with existing social and economic inequalities. For example, a 2019 report from Traveller MABS on energy poverty found that Travellers are 9 times more likely to go without heat than members of the general population. We urge the Government to include and consider the voices of ethnic minority groups – including Travellers and Roma – in any policy relating to climate action and a just transition.”

Michelle Murphy, Research and Policy Analyst with Social Justice Ireland, stated: “One of the fundamental principles of a Just Transition is to leave no people, communities, economic sectors or regions behind as we transition to a low carbon future.  There is enough money in the economy to begin to implement the Climate Action Plan, secure our energy infrastructure, and ensure a just transition to a green economy.  This would also mean, emission reductions, and the creation of a vibrant society and economy.”

Ciara Brennan, Director of Environmental Justice Network Ireland, said: “Ireland must stop planning to fail when it comes to climate action. An ambitious Climate Action Plan for 2023 must be linked to a robust and credible national long-term strategy, which is required to meet domestic and EU obligations, and which will give direction to all domestic level climate plans and policies. A clear plan for how to get to our end destination is crucial in order to protect Ireland from economic shocks amidst the energy and cost of living crises and will allow the true cost of decisions being made now around climate action to be seen within the long-term context.”

The 2023 Climate Action Plan is due to be published by the Irish government before January 2023. CAP23 will outline the detailed plan in the year ahead to reduce greenhouse gas emissions between now and 2024.

ENDS

For more information, contact Fodhla O’Connell-Grennell at Community Law & Mediation, on  FOconnell@CommunityLawAndMediation.ie

To read the full open letter sent to Minister Eamon Ryan, please click here.

Partner organisations include: An Taisce, Friends of the Earth, Social Justice Ireland, TASC, Action Aid, Environmental Justice Network Ireland, Irish Heart Foundation, Friends of the Irish Environment, The Irish Traveller Movement, The Northside Partnership, Age Action, The Climate and Health Alliance, Futureproof Clare, Galway Public Participation Network, Pavee Point, INOU, The Asthma Society and Safety Before LNG.

Link to additional quotes: HERE.

Link to organisation logos: HERE.

Editor Notes:

Community Law & Mediation are calling on the government to ensure that the Climate Action Plan 2023 provides the following:

  1. The immediate implementation of Ireland’s 2021-2025 carbon budget.
  2. The inclusion of all sectors in the Sectoral Emissions Ceilings.
  3. The publication of the Long-Term Climate Action Strategy in accordance with EU and national law.
  4. Measures to address inequality.
  5. Measures to Address the Energy Crisis.
  6. Halt New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure and Withdraw Existing Licenses from Fossil Fuel Companies.
  7. Introduce a moratorium on new data centres.
  8. Ensure a Just Transition.

Community Law & Mediation:

Community Law & Mediation (CLM), previously known as Coolock Community Law Centre, was established on 1 April 1975, as the first, independent, community-based law centre in Ireland. In 2012, we opened a second community law centre in Limerick.

CLM works to empower individuals experiencing disadvantages through:

  • Free legal information, advice and representation;
  • Free mediation and conflict coaching;
  • Information and education; and
  • Advocating for Change

Centre for Environmental Justice:

CLM’s Centre for Environmental Justice was launched by Mary Robinson in February 2021 and is the first of its kind in Ireland.

CEJ offers free legal advice and representation, provides community education and training, and advocates for a rights-based approach to policy and law reform in the area of environmental justice.

What are carbon budgets?

A carbon budget represents the total amount of emissions that may be emitted in the State during a five-year period, measured in tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. It is calculated on an economy-wide basis.

As part of its work, the Climate Change Advisory Council is responsible for proposing three five-year economy-wide carbon budgets, covering the periods 2021-2025, 2026-2030 and 2031-2035, to assist the State in achieving its national climate objectives and greenhouse gas emissions targets agreed by the European Union.

The first three carbon budgets cover the following five-year periods: 2021 to 2025, 2026 to 2030, and 2031 to 2035 (although the budget for the third period is provisional). All greenhouse gas emissions and all relevant sectors are included in the carbon budgets.

They are as follows:

  • 2021-2025: 295 Mt CO2 eq. an average of -4.8% for the first budget period.
  • 2026-2030: 200 Mt CO2 eq. an average of -8.3% for the second budget period.
  • 2031-2035: 151 Mt CO2 eq. an average of -3.5% for the third provisional budget.

What are Sectoral Emissions Ceilings?

Sectoral Emissions Ceilings are the maximum amount of greenhouse gas emissions that are permitted in each sector of the economy during the carbon budget period.

 

The Right to Education- Supporting Families & Children

This half day course on zoom will cover the following areas – 

  • The law relating to education,  
  • Non-discrimination in education, 
  • School admissions, 
  • Schools’ code of behaviour,  
  • Suspension and expulsion by schools, 
  • Section 29 appeals to the Dept of Education, 
  • Use of reduced hours/ short day by a school for individual children, 
  • Bullying and cyber-bullying. 

Date: 15 Nov 2022  

Time: 2.30pm to 5pm 

Location: Zoom 

Cost: €150 

For an application form click here. Please send you application forms to email: education@communitylawandmediation.ie 

Your Details

* Mandatory fields

BLOG: How can I access information about my environmental rights?


Finding out about your environmental rights and how you can access information on the environment can be daunting. At Community Law & Mediation, we want to give you the tools to know your environmental rights and act upon them.

In this article, we will provide you with information on the Aarhus Convention, the international agreement which sets out our environmental law. We will also outline what Access to Information on the Environment (AIE) is and how to use it.


Jargon Buster:

Environmental RightsThe right of every person of present and future generations to live in an environment adequate to his or her health and well-being.
Access to Information on the Environment (AIE)The access to information on the environment (AIE) regulations give citizens the right to access environmental information held by, or for, public authorities. 

What are my environmental rights?


Your environmental rights are set out in the Aarhus Convention.

The Aarhus Convention is an international agreement which was established by the United Nations Economic Commission in 1998, and it entered into law in Ireland in 2012.

This law protects: “The right of every person of present and future generations to live in an environment adequate to his or her health and well-being.”

Your right to “live in an environment adequate to your health and well-being” is protected by three environmental rights:

  • Right of Access to Information – This is your right to know. 
  • Right of Access to Public Participation – This is your right to have your say.
  • Right of Access to Justice – Your right to access legal remedy if your rights are infringed.

What type of environmental information can you access through the Aarhus Convention?


You can access a wide variety of environmental information through the Aarhus Convention. The way in which you can access information is through making an Access to Information on the Environment (AIE) request.

You are able to request information on the following environmental issues:

Environmental IssueMeaning
Air Quality / Air PollutionThe degree to which the air in a particular place is pollution-free.
Noise Level Control / Noise PollutionUnwanted or disturbing sound in the environment that affects the health and well-being of humans and other living organisms.
Soil QualityA measure of the condition of soil relative to the requirements of one or more biotic species and or to any human need or purpose.
Water QualityThe condition of the water, including chemical, physical, and biological characteristics, usually with respect to its suitability for a particular purpose such as drinking or swimming.
Water AllocationThe specific volume of water allocated to water access entitlements in a given water year or allocated as specified within a water resource plan.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGs)The emission into the earth’s atmosphere of any of various gases, especially carbon dioxide, that contribute to the planet warming.
Land UseInvolves the management and modification of natural environment or wilderness into built environment such as settlements and semi-natural habitats such as arable fields, pastures, and managed woods. 
Waste ManagementThe strategy used to dispose, reduce, reuse, and prevent waste. Possible waste disposal methods are recycling, composting, incineration, landfills, bioremediation, waste to energy, and waste minimization.
Energy Production or DistributionThe total production / distribution of primary energy by all energy producing enterprises in the country in a given period of time.
Information on Environmental Policies / Measures TakenAny measure by a government or corporation or other public or private organisation regarding the effects of human activities on the environment, particularly those measures that are designed to prevent or reduce harmful effects of human activities on ecosystems.
Information on Human Health & SafetyThe physical health or safety of individual human beings in context of our environment.

You can access written, visual, aural, electronic or any other materials, as long as it relates to the environment.

How to request access to information on the environment?


There are six steps you can take when submitting an AIE request:

 

Consider what you want and why you really want it:

Before submitting your AIE request, ensure that you know what type of information you want to receive in your request. It is also good to back this up with why you want this information. Information you can request includes, meeting minutes, briefing papers, audits, data and inspection reports.


Know who to target:

You must select individuals to direct your request to. You can consider multiple sources  for this, including Departments, Local Authorities, Semi State, State-Bodies and Agencies.


Key pieces of information to include in your AIE request:

There are several key pieces of information you should always include in your AIE request. You should always provide your name and contact details and it is important to state that you are making an AIE request, as opposed to Freedom of Information (FoI) request. You will always want to be specific about the information you want to receive. It is ideal to specify the format – typically electronic is best. You should state that your request be dealt with “as soon as possible”. You should request an acknowledgement letter.


Keep note of the date you made your request:

It is recommended that you make a spreadsheet to manage your AIE requests. This is helpful for when you are making multiple requests, have multiple targets and multiple deadlines. It is key that you record the dates in which you sent your AIE request. You can then estimate the due date for your request – which should be 4 weeks into the future. It is good to also keep note of the officer handling your request and include a notes section to update with the progress of your request.


Ensure you follow up on your requests:

It is good to stay in contact with the officer dealing with your request. This is especially positive if you may need to refine your AIE request. Make sure to do this all in writing so that you have a paper trail of all communication. Before your request due date, you can follow up with the officer dealing with your request. Create a timeline of events and actions, this can be inputted into your spreadsheet.


What to expect on your AIE Request deadline day:

You should be provided with a letter outlining the decision making process, a schedule of all records (released or not), several possible outcomes (all/ some documents released, documents redacted, additional month required due to complexity, refusal of AIE request). If you do not receive a response within four weeks, this could be due to a genuine delay or that your request has been refused.


Does it cost money to access environmental information?


There is no fee to make an AIE request. However, the regulations do allow a public authority to charge a reasonable fee for the cost of supplying the environmental information if the cost exceeds €100.

It is recommended to be (1) detailed in your request and (2) to request that the information is provided via electronic copy to help save costs.

Can my Access to Information on the Environment request be refused?


A public authority can refuse an AIE request. They may also only allow a partial release of information – which means only some of the information is permitted to be shared.

If you are refused information, you must be given a reason for the refusal. You can appeal to the Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information and ultimately to the courts if refused information. If you appeal a case, you don’t have to pay for the cost of the other side if you are unsuccessful.

AIE request template


[Address of authority]

Dear Sir/Madam,

Under the European Communities (Access to Information on the Environment) Regulations 2007 (SI 133 of 2007, as amended) (the AIE Regulations) and Directive 2003/4/EC (the AIE Directive), I am seeking the following records:

[Whatever you are looking for goes here: Any documents (including but not limited to correspondence (letters, e-mails, etc.), briefings, reports, notes of telephone conversations, and notes of meetings) relating to ______.]

I would prefer to receive this information electronically, that these documents are provided in their original format, along with a schedule of documents.

Yours Faithfully,

[Your Name]

How does Community Law & Mediation support your environmental rights? 


Community Law & Mediation is an independent community law centre providing free legal advice, advocacy, mediation and education services. In 2021, we set up a dedicated Centre for Environmental Justice offering free legal advice, community education, and law reform services in the area of environmental justice.  

We run monthly clinics helping members of the public with environmental issues such as health concerns arising from air or water pollution, illegal dumping or lack of access to clean water. We deliver training to organisations, community groups, and activists. At a broader level, we seek to advance legislative and policy change through strategic casework and law reform. 

Support with environmental justice:


If you are experiencing environmental justice issues and want more legal advice, please contact Community Law and Mediation:

–           Phone: (01) 847 7804

–           Email: info@communitylawandmediation.ie


This blog is the first of our three-part Environmental Rights blog series. Our next blog about public participation, will be available to read next week.


In October, we ran a three-part Environmental Rights webinar series. To watch back on our Environmental Rights Webinar Series 2022, click here.