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F R E E L E G A L A D V I C E C E N T R E S
Hike in legal aid charges willhit poorest in society hardestI n the first changes to the civil legal aidscheme since 2006, the Minister forJustice, Equality & Defence AlanShatter announced a radical increase inthe basic costs of civil legal aid. TheMinister says he is aiming to reducewaiting lists and increase revenue for thestate Legal Aid Board. However FLAC saysthat closing the door to justice on thepoorest people in our society is no way totackle deficiencies in our countrys legalaid system.
With FLAC calling for a human rightsapproach to decisions in this years budget,these increases are yet another exampleof why the government needs to conductsocial impact assessments before makingdecisions that could have adisproportionate impact on lowerincome, vulnerable groups in society.
The changes announced by MinisterShatter on 12 September 2013 include ahike in both the minimum legal aidcontribution from 50 to 130 and legaladvice from 10 to 30. This 160% jumpin the legal aid contribution is one thatqualifying applicants could find difficult topay, considering that this is just a minimumamount before any further contributionbased on disposal income.
Minister Shatter has stated that he hopesthe changes will bring in an extra700,000 to the Legal Aid Boards budgetannually. But FLAC suggests there mayactually be a cost to this strategy, if peopleare unable to pay their legal aidcontributions
Further, FLAC anticipates an increase inthe number of people applying for waiversof their legal aid contributions based onfinancial hardship grounds, as the
minister has said this principle will stillapply. However, he did not take thisopportunity to address the currentambiguity around what the Legal AidBoard defines as financial hardship andset clear guidelines, as there is nodefinition provided in the Civil Legal AidRegulations 1996.
Right now, the Legal Aid Board and its lawcentres have the discretion to approve awaiver application based on whatever theysee as constituting hardship, resulting ininconsistent decisions and financial strainon some legal aid applicants. Guidelinesmight easily be developed with input fromindividuals who experience poverty andmarginalisation and the civil societyorganisations that work with them.
FLAC welcomes the abolition of fees forpeople involved in childcare cases againstthe HSE, which will help people greatly inwhat is already very traumatic andstressful situation.
The disposable capital threshold forqualifying legal aid applicants has been cutfrom 320,000 to 100,000, which theMinister says will bring Ireland in line withother disposable capital limits inneighbouring jurisdictions such as Englandand Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.This threshold does not include the familyhome, which is positive.
However, the threshold reduction couldhave a profound effect on access to justicefor people who are asset-rich but cash-poor people like small farmers ortradespeople, who rely on expensiveassets like land and machinery for anincome and thus cannot easily sell themoff to pay for legal assistance. For example,such people may have to pay a higher
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FLAC has prepared a new guidefor people in mortgage arrearswhich will take them through themechanisms available up toinsolvency. The guide, which is freeto download from the FLACwebsite as a PDF, suggests howborrowers might use the Code ofConduct on Mortgage Arrearsand other options open to them.
FLAC will shortly announcedetails of regional workshops ondealing with the legal side ofmortgage arrears. These areaimed mainly at the volunteerlawyers who maintain ournetwork of free legal advicecentres. However they will beopen to interested parties.
Keep an eye on FLACs websiteand on our Facebook/Twitterfeeds for updates & details!
flac.ie | fb.me/flacireland | @flacireland
FLAC Guide tohandlingmortgage
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Transgender woman Lydia Foys 20-year struggle for legal recognitionin her true gender has beenhonoured by Europes leading diversityawards body. Dr Foy has been shortlistedfor the title of Campaigner of the Year atthe prestigious European Diversity Awardsceremony which is sponsored by majorinternational firms including Barclays,Google, Societ Generale, Unilever andAbercrombie and Fitch.
The winner will be announced at a galadinner at Londons iconic Natural HistoryMuseum on 26th September and a highlycommended runner-up is often named aswell. Lydia Foy will be one of eightcampaigners shortlisted from all overEurope. Coincidentally, Senator DavidNorris is also on the shortlist, nominatedfor his long struggle for gay rights inIreland.
The European Diversity Awards are likethe Man Booker prize of the equality anddiversity world. Last year there were 500nominations from 20 countries in 13categories, so it is a major achievement tomake the shortlist. And with two Irishcampaigners on the list, there is a goodchance that one or other of them willmake the final two.
Last years Campaigner of the Year wasDoreen Lawrence, mother of blackteenager Stephen Lawrence who wasmurdered by a racist gang in London in1993. She was honoured for her long fightto bring her sons killers to justice. Andhighly commended was Benja StigFagerland, a Danish businesswomaninternationally known for campaigning formore women in company boardrooms.
Lydia Foy said she was surprised and
honoured to be shortlisted for theaward.
FLAC has represented Dr Foy since 1996when she began a legal challenge to theStates failure to recognise her in herfemale gender. In October 2007 the HighCourt ruled that the State had breachedher rights under the European Conventionon Human Rights and held that Irish lawwas incompatible with the Convention.Five years later, in January of this year, theGovernment had still not introducedlegislation to recognise transgenderpersons and Dr Foy had to start new legalproceedings to try to secure recognition.
FLAC senior solicitor Michael Farrell saidthe nomination was a major tribute to DrFoy for continuing her struggle over the20 years since she first applied for a newbirth certificate in 1993.
Mr Farrell said: Lydia Foys nomination isalso a rebuke to successive Irish governmentswhich have failed to introduce genderrecognition legislation in the 11 years sincethe European Court of Human Rights held in2002 that the recognition of transpersons intheir true gender was a basic human right.
Dr Foys shortlisting for this importantaward is well timed as it comes just beforean Oireachtas committee is due toconsider the Governments long overdueand very cautious and restrictive Schemeof a Gender Recognition Bill, published lastJuly. Hopefully, the exposure that theEuropean Diversity Awards will give to theStates continuing failure to recognisetransgender persons will finally push theGovernment to ensure that generous andinclusive Gender Recognition legislation isenacted without further delay.
flac News | Vol. 23, No. 3
in this edition...Hike in legal aid charges will hit poorest hardest 1 & 8
New CCMA guide 1
Lydia Foy shortlisted for Campaigner of the Year in Euro award 2
FLAC calls for greater consumersupport as arrears figures rise again 3Aiding advocacy across borders 3
Statistics: greater demand for help 4Zambrano mother can apply for social housing 4
Woman in subsidiary protection seeks Child Benefit arrears 5
Pre-budget forum allows NGO input 5
Why it makes sense to use plain legal language 6
Putting rights in budget decisions 7
Equality & human rights budgeting event yields united front 8
Civil legal aid for families in inquests 9
Focus on FLAC:Blanchardstown FLAC 10
Mairead Healy, PILA Project Officer 11
Colm ODwyer BL 12
PILA staff changes 12
Education session on data protection 13
PILA thank you event 13
Discrimination thriving because ofunder-reporting 14
Making good use of old tech 14
TG Bill for debate, struggle not over 15
Help increase access to justice 15
FLAC golden volunteer pin award now countrywide 15
William Sampson Fellowship 2013 16
FLAC staff changes 16
FLAC NEWS is published quarterly byFree Legal Advice Centres Ltd., 13 Lower Dorset Street, Dublin 1.
Editors: Noeline Blackwell, EmmaCassidy & Yvonne Woods
Layout & Printing: Printwell Design, D3Contributors: Noeline Blackwell, SaoirseBrady, Emer Butler, Emma Cassidy, MeganCrenshaw, Michael Farrell, Laura Feely,Gillian Kernan, Mairead Healy, RachelMullen, Yvonne OSullivan, Yvonne Woods.
Photos by Derek Speirs, FLAC
ISSN 07914148The views of individual contributors do notnecessarily represent the views of FLAC.
Lydia Foy shortlisted forCampaigner of the Year in
top European award
Lydia Foy picturedwith FLAC SeniorSolicitor MichaelFarrell, who isrepresenting her inher case.
Photo by Derek Speirs
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