Advocating for Change: CLM makes Review of Civil Legal Aid Scheme submission today
We are calling for substantial reforms ensure the most vulnerable and marginalised in our society can vindicate their rights and challenge discrimination in areas that are critical to social inclusion but currently excluded from the Scheme, such as employment, equality, housing and social welfare.
What is Civil Legal Aid?
Civil legal aid means representation by a barrister or solicitor in civil proceedings in court or before the International Protection Appeals Tribunal, in addition to the preparatory work this entails.
Why have we made a submission on the review of the civil legal aid scheme?
CLM’s history is closely interlinked with the movement for civil legal aid in Ireland. Previously Coolock Community Law Centre, CLM was established in Coolock in 1975 as the first independent, community-based law centre in Ireland. It was modelled on the American neighbourhood law centre (now known in Ireland as the community law centre model) and its purpose initially was to serve as a prototype law centre and campaign tool in the movement for civil legal aid.
This model has a number of important characteristics. Services are free of charge, making them as accessible as possible; community education – creating an awareness of rights and the law – is a critical part of the work; and a focus on law reform ensures that the issues being raised in our services inform and influence change in policy and legislation.
The Pringle Report to Government in 1977 recommended a similarly expanded system of civil legal aid, including public information and education services on legal rights as well as representation for all types of civil proceedings.
Despite the fact that the Civil Legal Aid Scheme (“the Scheme”), introduced in 1979, saw the establishment of a different and more limited model under the Legal Aid Board, CLM has continued to grow and expand its services, working to remove barriers to the law on the basis that all people should be able to access basic legal information and advice regardless of their income and background. It continues to work to identify and unlock the legalities, regulations, policies, and procedures that manifest as barriers and obstacles to a fair and better life for all individuals in the community.
What are our key recommendations for the review of the Civil Legal Aid Scheme?
CLM are calling for reforms to ensure the most vulnerable and marginalised in our society can vindicate their rights and challenge discrimination in areas that are critical to social inclusion but currently excluded from the Scheme, such as employment, equality, housing and social welfare.
Our key recommendations include:
- Changes to the eligibility thresholds to qualify for legal aid and advice, and changes to the allowances against income to reflect the reality of the cost of living.
- Expansion of the Civil Legal Aid Scheme to areas of law which are currently excluded such as: employment and equality matters, housing-related matters, environmental matters, social welfare appeals and children’s rights.
- Restructuring of the Scheme in line with the community law centre model to include public information and education services – creating an awareness of rights and the law – and a policy and law reform function.
Read our review of the Civil Legal Aid Scheme submission: