In September 2016, Equality Rights Alliance (ERA), in conjunction with SIPTU, the Independent Law Centres Network and the Employment Law Association of Ireland, hosted a roundtable discussion in Liberty Hall, Dublin called Building an Agenda for Change in the WRC. The aim of the roundtable was to discuss the operation of the WRC from an equality perspective and to generate a shared vision for the direction participants would like the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) to take in enforcing employment equality and equal status legislation. The roundtable focused on the visibility of equality in the work of the WRC, how accessible the WRC is to people taking equality cases and how cases are processed under the WRC. Jane O’Sullivan, solicitor and policy officer with Community Law & Mediation, addressed the roundtable on the accessibility of the WRC to people facing discrimination. As a representative of the Independent Law Centres Network, she explored access to justice issues in taking equality cases.
Community Law and Mediation held a roundtable discussion in the area of Social Welfare Law on the 7th December last. The focus of the roundtable was to examine the right to adequate rent supplement in the context of social welfare legislation and human rights law for those whose means are insufficient to meet the costs of their accommodation needs and are in receipt of, or entitled to receive, rent supplement. We also examined the social policy implications of this issue. We decided to examine this topic because for those on low incomes or on social welfare payments it is extremely difficult if not impossible to secure accommodation in the private rented sector. This has led to a housing and homelessness crisis for those on low incomes and on welfare payments. A combination of factors has created this crisis including the lack of housing supply in general, the lack of social housing construction over the past decade, the pressure this has placed on the private rented sector, and the fact that the maximum rent limits under the rent supplement scheme have remained the same since 2013 despite a sharp rise in rents. To address the risk of homelessness for those on rent supplement the Department of Social Protection has introduced preventative measures to support rent supplement recipients and new applicants. Three speakers presented on various aspects of this issue. Alan Brady BL barrister and Adjunct Law Lecturer considered the issue of the maximum rent limits in the context of the rent supplement and housing assistance payment schemes from an Administrative law and human rights perspective. Mike Allen, Director of Advocacy with Focus Ireland, examined the broader social housing context, the various factors causing homelessness and in particular the link between the rise in homelessness and the max rent limits. Jackie Harrington, Principal Officer with the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Policy Unit, of the Department of Social Protection, gave a brief overview of the rent supplement and housing assistance payment schemes and focused upon preventative measures such as the Tenancy Sustainment Protocol agreed with Threshold and the circular issued to all CWO’s in late 2014 regarding the use discretion as provided for under Article 38 to raise the rent limits.
We held a roundtable at our offices in the Northside Civic Centre, Bunratty Road, Coolock on Thursday 12th November 2015. The purpose of the roundtable was to explore the topic of Age and Discrimination in Employment, from a legal and social policy perspective. Our demographics are changing. People are living longer, older people are healthier and more active and have valuable contributions to make to society either from within the workforce or in other aspects of their lives. At this roundtable, we welcomed different perspectives on the legal and social implications of this. We looked at the issues, both legal and social, experienced by older people in employment. One of the legal issues we examined was that of a mandatory retirement age and objective justification. This was an important discussion in the context of the increase in the State pension age and the then recent Employment Equality (Mandatory Retirement Age) Bill, which had been recently voted through to Committee Stage unopposed. We also dealt with queries that engage the employment equality legislation, such as prevention of access to training and promotion, along with other manifestations of direct and indirect discrimination on grounds of age. Our speakers were Cathy McGrady BL and Naomi Feely, Senior Policy Officer with Age Action.
On the 19th November 2014, a Roundtable discussion was held at CLM’s offices. Wayne Stanley, Director of Advocacy, Communication and Research at Focus Ireland discussed the impact of repossessions on the social housing sector. He provided an overview of the main social housing supports including the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS), Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) and Rent Supplement (RS) and outlined the respective advantages and disadvantages of each type of support. In this way he illustrated how the State has turned to the private rental market as a way of providing housing. Jim O’ Callaghan, Head of Operations at the Housing Rights Service Northern Ireland made a presentation on the various projects run by the service such as the Preventing Possession Initiative and the Mortgage Debt Advice Service and described in particular detail the operation of Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme. This is a scheme whereby a team of non-practising solicitors provide once-off legal advice to those facing repossession who have turned up to Court without representation.
CLM held a Roundtable discussion on the 17th November 2014 in the area of Social Welfare Law focusing on the Social Welfare Code in the context of children's rights. The ensuing discussion highlighted certain legislative provisions and child related payments that are not providing adequate protection for children's rights particularly when examined in the context of a human rights framework.
On 10th December 2013, a roundtable discussion was held at CLM’s offices. Following a presentation by Allan J. Crann BL on the main provisions of the Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears (CCMA) 2013 and the consequences of a breach of the CCMA 2013 on the Lender and the Borrower, the roundtable discussion focused on the extent of compliance with the CCMA 2013 by lending institutions, and the adequacy of protection guaranteed by the code vis-à-vis borrowers. Representatives from MABS, CIC’s, voluntary groups and the legal profession attended.
CLM held a Roundtable discussion on the 21st November 2013 in the area of Social Welfare Law focusing upon Section 13 of the Social Welfare Act 2012 which allows the Department to reduce a basic payment by 15% without the person’s consent in order to recover an overpayment owing to the Department.