July 31, 2017
People seeking free legal advice are currently facing waiting times of up to 76 weeks for appointments at Legal Aid Board law centres, according to the latest figures released to the Social Democrats.
The figures show that combined waiting times for first and second consultations at Legal Aid Board law centres on 1st July 2017 were highest in Tallaght at 76 weeks, followed by Jervis Street in Dublin at 55 weeks, with Ennis 48 weeks, Athlone 47 weeks, and Cork South Mall 41 weeks. (See full PQ reply below.)
The waiting times for 33 Legal Aid Board law centres were released by the Minister for Justice and Equality in response to a written Dáil question from Róisín Shortall TD of the Social Democrats. In many cases, they show an increase in the waiting times as noted by the Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) in its annual report out today.
Commenting on these latest figures, Deputy Shortall TD said:
“These delays must be causing great stress and strain for people on the waiting lists. The waiting times are inexcusable, and the fact that people’s access to free legal aid can depend on where they live in the country makes a mockery of the notion of equality before the law. When people face long waits for consultations, it means that they may be left totally unaware of their legal rights and options.
“Timely access to civil legal aid and advice is crucial, and the Minister for Justice himself has acknowledged that delays in service can lead to further difficulties, not just for clients, but also for children, wider family units, the community and the courts system. Clearly, in the light of these latest figures, the resources allocated to the Legal Aid Board need to be urgently reviewed so that waiting times across the country are as short as possible.”
Deputy Shortall also endorsed FLAC’s call for the Legal Aid Board to drop legal aid charges for people experiencing domestic violence.
31 July 2017
DÁIL QUESTIONS addressed to the Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charlie Flanagan) by Deputies for WRITTEN ANSWER on Wednesday, 26th July, 2017.
* 502. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons on the waiting list for free legal aid and advice; and the average waiting time by area. – Róisín Shortall
REPLY. The Legal Aid Board provides civil legal aid and advice pursuant to the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 and the Civil Legal Aid Regulations 1996 to 2016.
I am conscious that there are significant demands on the Board and that this gives rise to waiting times for certain services at most of the Board’s law centres. However, waiting times have been markedly reduced over recent years due to measures introduced by the Board and the Deputy will be glad to know that the Board’s budget was increased by €4.15m in 2017.
I know that the Board is extremely conscious of the fact that delays in service can lead to further difficulties not just for the client but also for children, the wider family and the community, as well as the courts system. In this regard, the Board continues to provide a priority service in respect of a number of areas such as domestic violence, child abduction, child care, and asylum and related matters. In addition, a person admitted to the Abhaile scheme does not need to wait before they are seen by a solicitor for legal advice. All other applications are placed on the waiting list.
An application for civil legal aid and advice can be made at any Legal Aid Board law centre, regardless of the county of residence of the applicant. For that reason, statistics in relation to applications and waiting times are maintained by law centre rather than county. The table below sets out the waiting times for civil legal services as of the 1st July 2017 by law centre. I am informed that some law centres operate a ‘triage’ approach, which involves giving an applicant a short consultation (45 minutes) for legal advice. Those persons remain on the Board’s waiting list if they require further legal services and the wait time for this is indicated by the second column. The majority of centres do not currently deem it necessary to operate the ‘triage’ approach.Legal Aid Board waiting times – 1 July 2017