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Written Answers. - Legal Aid Service.

Thursday, 17 October 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 555 No. 4

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[1153]

 40. Mr. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan  asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell  the steps he proposes to take to address the serious and ever increasing issue of long waiting lists for legal aid, with particular reference to the family law areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18526/02]

 155. Mr. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan  asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell  his proposals to improve the legal aid service with particular reference to meet the needs of those forced to remain on waiting lists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18748/02]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I propose to take Questions Nos. 40 and 155 together. I can inform the Deputy that the grant-in-aid made available to the Legal Aid Board has increased significantly in recent years, up from €7.87 million in 1996 to €17.636 million this year. Sanction for an increase in staff numbers has also been obtained and the staff have been recruited. These additional resources have enabled the board to provide legal services to a greater number of people and also to significantly reduce waiting times for such services. Between December 2000 and September 2002 the number of persons awaiting legal services has reduced by approximately 16% and the waiting time for a first appointment with a solicitor has reduced to three months or less in 17 of the board's 30 law centres.

I can also inform the Deputy that over 20% of applications received by the board are treated as priority cases and the people concerned receive an immediate appointment with a solicitor and are not placed on a waiting list. Priority is afforded to cases involving domestic violence, child care cases and cases where there are time limits. I can advise the Deputy that the board continues to closely monitor the operation of its law centre network, including waiting times, with a view to providing an efficient and professional legal service to all of its clients.


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