"Reform of Civil Legal Aid Scheme Needed Urgently" - Nelligan
The Aontú representative for Castletroy & Annacotty, Eric Nelligan is seeking a speedy reform of the Civil Legal Aid Scheme to help vulnerable people in need of advocacy and legal advice.
Speaking today, Mr Nelligan said; “The Civil Legal Aid Scheme was first established over 40 years ago, Irish society has changed and the demands on the Scheme have grown since its establishment. A robust, comprehensive review of the Scheme is needed to provide the maximum benefit to the people it was established to serve within the finite resources available to the legal fund.’’
Mr Nelligan continued: “In order to be granted civil legal aid advice the applicant must undertake a means test of their financial circumstances to see if they qualify for services. To get civil legal aid, you need to have an annual disposable income of less than €18,000 and assets of less than €100,000”.
‘It is anticipated that the current cost of living and cost of energy crisis will lead to the busiest winter ever in law centres. The waiting lists are increasing and it is those at the most risk who require the services of the Law Centre. It is reported that housing and homelessness take up more than half of the cases” added Mr Nelligan
‘’The financial means testing is overly restrictive, but most concerning is the payment of a compulsory ‘contribution’. On the first visit to see the solicitor an ‘advice contribution’ of up to €150 needs to be paid. Should the case go to court an ‘aid contribution’ also needs to be paid. This is a minimum of €150. However, depending on income and assets it can rise to multiples of the minimum €150 fee.’’
Mr Nelligan concludes; ‘’Aontú would like to see the greater use of mediation in cases to limit disputes seen in the district courts. There are many examples of family law cases which have had over 100 hearing days in the district court before the matter was finalized.’’