Legal Aid Board denies asylum fee cuts will impact access to justice
The Legal Aid Board has denied claims that cuts to fees for solicitors advising international protection applicants will impact access to justice for a vulnerable group of people.
An immigration solicitor told Irish Legal News last week that the new fee structure for the International Protection Solicitors Panel “seems designed to further limit access to justice to this particularly vulnerable group”.
Under the new fee structure, the previous single fee of €730 for advising an applicant has been broken up into three fees for different stages of the process:
- A €300 fee for advice tendered up to the submission of the applicant’s Application for International Protection Questionnaire;
- A €300 fee for advice tendered post the submission of the applicant’s Application for International Protection Questionnaire but prior to their interview with an international protection office;
- A €100 fee for advice and submissions in relation to an application to review a decision in relation to permission to remain. This fee is intended to also include advice with respect to the making of a deportation order.
Dr Donal Reddington, director of corporate services at the Legal Aid Board, told ILN: “The total fee therefore amounts to €700, a reduction of just €30 on the previous full case fee.
“Furthermore solicitors are now able to claim the relevant fee after each stage of the process, instead of having to wait until after the case is determined. This may aid solicitors who may be experiencing cash flow problems due to Covid-19.”
The Board said it decided to split the fee because many applicants were not seeking legal advice until after submitting the questionnaire.
It added that there “was some evidence that the fee of €730 was not representing the value for money to the Board where pre-questionnaire submission legal services were not being provided”.
However, immigration lawyer Wendy Lyon of Abbey Law said she stood by her criticisms of the new fee structure, telling ILN: “The most labour-intensive part of the representation process, by far, is the preparing of submissions in advance of the interview.
“It’s frankly insulting to us as refugee law specialists to suggest that €730 for this work did not represent value for money to the Legal Aid Board. It doesn’t represent value for money to practitioners – we in fact should have been paid a lot more for it.
“If the Legal Aid Board was paying at standard private rates they would have been two or three times higher than that.”