I wish to inform the Deputy that 16,870 applications were made to the Legal Aid Board's general law centres during 2012. This compared with 18,727 applications in 2011 which was a decrease of approximately 10%. Overall however, there has been a significant increase in demand for civil legal aid services in recent years, as the number of applications in 2006 was 9,689 which the Deputy will note from last year's figure was almost 74% ahead of the demand six years earlier. On the asylum side the trend has been consistently downwards for a number of years. Last year there were 725 new applications to the Board for asylum related matters. This compares to a figure of 979 in 2011 and 2,980 in 2006. Adjusting the numbers overall there were 17,595 new applications in 2012 compared to 19,706 in 2011 and 12,669 in 2006. The drop in demand in 2012 on 2011 was just under 11% while demand in 2012 was still 39% ahead of what it was six years previously. From this year we are recording a single figure for demand for services.
Having regard to the significantly increased demand for services from the Legal Aid Board in recent years, it was decided to maintain the Board's grant-in-aid for 2013 at the same level as last year. The Board, in common with all public service organisations, has to manage the delivery of their services in the most cost effective and efficient manner possible having regard to ongoing pressure on the public finances. Notwithstanding the pressures on resources, I have further supported the Board by approving exemptions from the moratorium to enable the organisation to recruit front-line staff for direct service delivery. The Public Appointments Service is currently running a solicitor recruitment competition for the Board from which appointments, both temporary and permanent, will be made in the coming months.