Sinn Féin Senator Lynn Boylan has welcomed reports that the government has instructed the Legal Aid Board to reform eligibility criteria ahead of her Bill this Monday.
Senator Boylan’s Private Member’s Bill is due to be debated in the Seanad on Monday evening. It would reform anomalies to civil legal aid criteria which currently unfairly penalise people receiving Housing Assistance Payment when they apply for civil legal aid.
The anomaly has particularly impacted on survivors of domestic abuse.
Speaking this evening, Senator Boylan said:
“Ahead of my Bill coming before the Seanad on Monday, I am hearing reports that the Legal Aid Board has been instructed by the Government to disregard Housing Assistance Payments when calculating the income of people applying for civil legal aid.
“This is a huge win for the people affected. No survivor should ever be denied the legal aid that they need.
“This flawed system has been dangerous and hugely damaging. It requires clear and urgent reform to remove this anomaly and ensure fair access to justice.
“The Government know that they could not defend the indefensible in the Seanad on Monday in the face of my Bill.
“If these reports are accurate, I welcome this as an important victory for survivors seeking to access justice and fair treatment in the courts.
“It shouldn’t have taken this long for this change to come about. This wouldn’t have happened without my Bill and the Government should not have waited until my Bill forced their hand on this vital issue.
“While this is an important first step, I will continue to press the Government and hold them to account on this to ensure that we deliver the necessary change. I will continue with my Bill to remove any scope for doubt or delay. We need to see clear, unequivocal commitment from the Government that they will deliver on this.
“I stand with all survivors who seek justice and fair treatment. I want to commend everyone who has been campaigning to highlight this important issue and bring about this much-needed change.”