The Law Reform Commission (LRC) is currently preparing its Fifth Programme for Law Reform and as part of that work, has invited submissions on possible projects in areas of law that may be in need of reform and modernisation. In September 2017, Community Law & Mediation made a submission to that process.
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.
The Social Welfare Bill 2016, published on the 4th of November 2016, gives legislative effect to the social welfare measures announced in Budget 2017. It also deals with a number of other unrelated matters. FLAC and CLM’s joint submission addresses a number of relevant issues including the general manner in which social welfare bills are presented in the Houses of the Oireachtas as well as specific parts of the Bill itself.
Ireland’s commitment to the implementation of The UN Convention on the
Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is due to
be examined in early 2017. As part of this process, the State submits a written
response to a list of issues identified by the CEDAW Committee, which is an
independent expert body within the United Nations. The National Women’s
Council of Ireland is drafting a Shadow Report for submission to the CEDAW
Committee and this is CLM’s submission to that Shadow Report. It has been
ten years since Ireland was last reviewed by this Committee. CLM, in its work
to improve access to justice over the last 41 years, works to tackle barriers to
justice and to highlight and challenge the disproportionate effect of unfair laws
and policies on certain groups in society, including women.
CLM has made a submission to an inter-departmental working group on fuller working lives. This submission on a roundtable held by CLM looks at the legal and policy considerations for older people in employment in Ireland and makes the case for introducing greater choice for individuals in their employment and retirement. It covers topics such as age discrimination in employment and the legal position on mandatory retirement and fixed term contracts after retirement. The report also provides a broad overview of the perception and experience of older workers in Irish society and looks at the benefits that gradual or phased retirement could bring. Women continue to be a particularly vulnerable group in the context of employment and retirement and the report looks at this persistent trend. Since the beginning of 2016, we have had a new forum in which older people whose employment and equality rights have been violated can go to – the Workplace Relations Commission. CLM looks at the new WRC in this context and comments on the impact of the lack of legal aid for employment and equality cases.
As members of the Human Rights Committee of the Law Society of Ireland, Community Law and Mediation were kindly invited by the Law Society of Ireland to make submissions to the emergency Dáil Committee on Housing and Homelessness. The views expressed in the briefing paper and the presentation made to the Dáil Committee on the 10th May 2016 are the views of Community Law and Mediation.
Community Law & Mediation today published a pre-Budget submission on Children and the Social Welfare code. The purpose of this submission is to highlight the impact on children of changes to the social welfare code and policies around that code. In shaping social welfare policy, finite resources undoubtedly present limitations. This submission examines the choices made within those constraints and makes recommendations for the choices that will be made in Budget 2016. For many children, the reality of budgets that lack human rights and equality proofing is in fact regression. We submit that children are uniquely vulnerable and that the state is under an obligation to recognise this in its budgetary decisions and its social welfare policy. Our recommendations present viable and very practical alternatives for decision-makers around Budget 2016.
This is a joint submission by CLM and FLAC on the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2015. Our recommendations relate to the manner in which social welfare bills are presented in the Houses of the Oireachtas as well as to parts of the Bill itself.
Following a recent roundtable discussion, this submission examines the current trend of increased levels of long term mortgage arrears and applications for court ordered possession of family homes alongside the paucity of adequate and affordable legal assistance available to borrowers facing such legal proceedings. Following on from the discussion, CLM believe that early and on going legal support is necessary for individuals in mortgage arrears to allow them to make informed decisions and to address the current power imbalance that exists in favour of lending institutions.
This submission seeks to highlight and to gain clarification on a potential impediment that CLM has identified in the recent Order: 86A (Appeals to the Court of Appeal in civil proceedings) (S.I. No. 485 of 2014).
Submission to the Department of Social Protection following on from the Community Law & Mediation Roundtable on Social Welfare Law which examined Section 13 of the Social Welfare Act 2012. Section 13 deals with the recovery of overpayments and gives the Department of Social Protection the power to unilaterally deduct 15% from a person’s basic social welfare payment, a significant increase on the deduction allowed under the previous regime. Participants at the roundtable were unanimous in their view that the reduction of 15% to recipients’ basic payments was unfair and disproportionate, given the difficulties experienced by any individuals living on the basic subsistence payment in the form of SWA. Participants agreed that recipients living on a reduced payment of as little as €130 per week for a single person cannot maintain the minimum essential standard of living required to live with dignity. Attendees also emphasised that recipients’ rights to fair procedures must be complied with in the recovery process.
We very much welcome the enactment of legislation to clarify and indeed streamline what is now a complicated system that is difficult to navigate. Here, the legislature is presented with an excellent opportunity to establish a robust, fair and clarified procedure for the adjudication of disputes falling within its remit. Our submission emphasises five areas of concern or note in the Workplace Relations Bill as it currently stands. The most important of these, from the perspective of our clients and service users, is the lack of a clear entitlement to legal aid, which is not currently afforded to people in employment cases involving that most fundamental element, their livelihood. This need is critical and is a serious impediment to accessing justice, particularly in a situation where the inequality of arms is pronounced.
The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) is currently preparing a Handbook on Access to Justice, in partnership with the Council of Europe (CEPEJ) and the European Court of Human Rights. The Handbook will cover the area of access to justice in its widest sense including judicial as well as non-judicial aspects.
The Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2014 was published on 28 May 2014 and debate on this difficult to read piece of legislation commenced on 5 June 2014, with a hurried passage expected through the Oireachtas.
This briefing paper is a summary of issues raised in our Submission on the Proposals in the General Scheme of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2013 and also reflects our recommendations and observations regarding the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2014.