Big rise in employment and housing queries to community legal service
Community Law & Mediation services in greater demand as pandemic takes toll
Rose Wall, chief executive of Community Law & Mediation. Photograph: Alan Betson
Queries about employment rights to a leading community law service have doubled, while concerns about housing rights have gone up by 40 per cent and calls for advice on family law by almost 20 per cent since the start of the Covid pandemic.
Community Law & Mediation, which publishes its 45th annual report on Monday, is the oldest such service in the State. It operates in areas of disadvantage, including Coolock in Dublin and regeneration areas such as Moyross and Salthill in Limerick, and it aims to empower people through education, representation, mediation and advocacy.
The services supported more than 3,100 people last year, with housing the top issue in Limerick and employment rights and family law leading queries in Dublin.
“In 2019, in Limerick, many of the issues we dealt with related to housing and homelessness and family law,” the report states. “The long length of stay for families in emergency accommodation and the conditions of emergency accommodation were also recurrent themes, and we worked with families to try and improve their situation on a more sustainable basis.
“In Dublin, family and employment law issues dominated the demand for our services.”
In Coolock, where 1,491 clients were supported, 24 per cent of requests for support related to family law; 16 per cent to employment rights; 11 per cent to debt; 10 per cent to housing; and 7 per cent to wills and probate.
In Limerick, where 561 people were helped, 26 per cent of queries were about housing; 22 per cent about family law; 13 per cent about employment rights; 8 per cent about homelessness; and 7 per cent about wills and probate.
“Since the onset of Covid-19, requests for legal advice in relation to employment concerns have doubled as people face the prospect of losing their jobs and their homes,” said a CLM spokeswoman. “We have also seen a 40 per cent increase in queries related to housing rights, and an 18 per cent increase in family law queries.”
The CLM is seeking “urgent changes” to the 40-year-old civil legal aid scheme, specifically “to make the financial means test to access legal aid more inclusive; and to make legal aid available for employment, equality and social welfare cases”.