Increasing demand for free employment law services ‘highlights limits of legal aid’

Increasing demand for free employment law services 'highlights limits of legal aid'

Rose Wall

A community-based law centre has said increasing demand for its free legal services in the area of employment law has highlighted the limitations of the civil legal aid scheme.

Community Law & Mediation (CLM) assisted more than 3,000 people through its free community-based legal, mediation and education services last year, according to its 2018 annual report.

In addition to employment law cases, housing and family issues drove strong demand for the organisation’s services.

Commenting on the launch of the annual report, CLM CEO Rose Wall backed recent calls from legal rights group FLAC for a review of the legal aid scheme.

Ms Wall said: “As a community-based law centre, we see a range of issues coming through our services and in most cases, the individuals and families involved have nowhere else to go for assistance.

“Last year, we brought a series of successful public interest cases in relation to discrimination in the workplace; difficulties accessing social housing; refusal of emergency accommodation; and problems accessing social welfare payments.

“In one instance, we assisted an individual who had represented herself before the Workplace Relations Commission, alleging discrimination by her employer and constructive dismissal. She found the complaints and adjudication process confusing and intimidating and her case was unsuccessful. We lodged an appeal to the Labour Court on her behalf, challenging the decision of the WRC, and a satisfactory settlement was reached.”

Ms Wall added: “It is clear that the lack of legal aid for employment and equality cases and for social welfare appeals is a major barrier to enforcing citizens’ rights.

“We support the recent calls by partner organisations such as FLAC for a review of the legal aid scheme. We also call for expansion of the scheme to include employment and equality cases before the WRC and social welfare appeals before the Social Welfare Appeals Office.”

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