Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Ceisteanna (143)

Mattie McGrath


143. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if he will review his decision to implement statutory instrument SI 346 of 2013, Civil Legal Aid Regulations 2013, particularly his decision to increase the minimum financial contribution for legal advice and his increase in the minimum financial contribution for legal aid representation from €50 to €130; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5758/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

I wish to advise the Deputy that the Regulations recently introduced are intended, inter alia, to raise additional funding to be retained by the Board to better fund the provision of services to those in need of them and reduce waiting times for those services. At a time when the State is facing significant demands on its resources, an increase in contributions allows the Board to achieve its objectives without money being diverted from other programmes. The increased contributions should result in increased funding of up to €700,000 per annum being available to the Board once the increases have full impact.

There has been a very significant increase in demand for civil legal aid in the last number of years and while I have sought to protect the Board's budget, waiting times for the Board's non-prioritised services have increased due to a major increase in demand for services. I believe this additional resource for the Board will assist it in tackling those waiting times. Moreover, in approving the fee increase I decided to introduce a provision that abolished the contribution where a parent is seeking legal services from the Legal Aid Board to defend proceedings instituted by the Health Service Executive is relation to the welfare of the child. This reduction would not be possible in the absence of the fee increase.

I am conscious that the increase in the minimum contribution as a percentage is significant. However I believe the contributions payable still compare favourably with other jurisdictions, many of which require ongoing payments for certain legal aid matters. Provisions remain in place to allow the contribution to be waived in hardship cases. I know that the Board has in place a process for considering applications for waivers or reductions in the contribution and that it does so where not to do so would create undue hardship.

Finally, I also wish to advise the Deputy that I have no plans at present to review my decision to implement Statutory Instrument No. 346 of 2013.