Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Ceisteanna (195)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

195. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Justice and Equality when allowances against income when considering eligibility for civil legal aid were last reviewed; the recommendations that arose from the review; the changes made; the frequency of reviews; when it is next planned for a review to be undertaken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53447/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

The Legal Aid Board provides legal advice and aid under the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 and the Civil Legal Aid Regulations 1996-2017. The Board delivers these services through directly employed solicitors in its network of law centres around the country and private solicitors from its private practitioner panels.

Applicants for legal aid must meet the financial eligibility criteria under section 29 of the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 and the Civil Legal Aid Regulations 1996 to 2017. This provides that their disposable income (less certain allowances) must be below €18,000 and their disposable capital (less certain allowances and excluding the value of the home in which they live) must be below €100,000.

Since the enactment of the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995 and the making of the Civil Legal Aid Regulations 1996, the Regulations relating to financial eligibility have been substantially revised on three occasions. The following table details the changes that have been made to the allowances between 1996 and 2006. The 2013 Regulations made changes to certain aspects of the financial eligibility regime, however the allowances remain the same as provided for in the 2006 Regulations. The Regulations have been amended on two further occasions; to provide that persons granted legal aid pursuant to the Abhaile Scheme do not need to be means tested and that persons granted legal aid in domestic violence cases do not have to pay a contribution.

There is no formal process for reviewing the Regulations. The Board periodically brings proposals to my Department in relation to the financial eligibility and other criteria in relation to civil legal aid. I understand that the Legal Aid Board has brought such a proposal and the matter remains under consideration at this time.

Changes in financial eligibility thresholds and allowances, 1996 to 2013

Threshold

1996

2002

2006

2013

Disposable income

€9,333

€13,000

€18,000

€18,000

Disposable capital

€253,948

€320,000

€320,000

€100,000

Allowance

1996

2002

2006

2013

Spouse/partner

€1686

€1,900

€3,500

€3,500

Each dependent

€848

€1,100

€1,600

€1,600

Child care

€848

€1,100

€6,000

€6,000

Income tax

Full

Full

Full

Full

Social insurance

Full

Full

Full

Full

Accommodation costs

See below

€4,900

€8,000

€8,000

Deduction from ex-gratia payments received

€660

€1,040

€1,040

€1,040

USC

N/A

N/A

N/A

Full

PRD

N/A

N/A

N/A

full

Rent

€3,779

These allowances were replaced by the accommodation allowance in 2002

These allowances were replaced by the accommodation allowance in 2002

These allowances were replaced by the accommodation allowance in 2002

Mortgage repayments

€4,828

These allowances were replaced by the accommodation allowance in 2002

These allowances were replaced by the accommodation allowance in 2002

These allowances were replaced by the accommodation allowance in 2002

Rates

Full

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

Work Travelling Expenses

€336

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

HP Repayments

€336

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

Interest on Other loans

€764

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

VHI

€957

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

Life Assurance

full

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

Board and lodgings (50%)

€2,030

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

Ex-gratia payments made

€1,595

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

These allowances were abolished in 2002

Notes:

1. "Other Loans" excluding Mortgages and Hire Purchase Agreements

2. The amounts in the 1996 Regulations were set out in Irish pounds, For comparability purposes they have been converted to Euro at 1 euro = 0.787564 Irish pounds and rounded to the nearest euro.

3. The 2006 Regulations changed the basis on which disposable capital was assessed.