New free legal advice clinic launches for children in care system

Covid-19 pandemic has presented ‘significant challenges’ for young people in care

Covid-19 has impacted many aspects of their lives, including family access arrangements, education, mental health and accommodation options for young people leaving care.

Covid-19 has impacted many aspects of their lives, including family access arrangements, education, mental health and accommodation options for young people leaving care.

 

A new free legal advice clinic for children and young people in the care system commenced on Tuesday.

The clinic, which seeks to empower children or young adults who are in care or leaving care to vindicate their legal rights, is a collaborative initiative between voluntary organisation Epic, and Community Law and Mediation (CLM), a community-based law centre in Ireland.

The two organisations said the clinic was particularly welcome, as Covid-19 has “presented significant challenges for children and young people in care”.

Covid-19 has impacted many aspects of their lives, including family access arrangements, education, mental health and accommodation options for young people leaving care.

Rose Wall, chief executive of CLM, described the advice clinics as “much needed”.

“Children and young people in the care system are some of the most disadvantaged in Ireland and they have faced significant challenges in recent months due to Covid-19,” Ms Wall said.

“The legal expertise of our solicitors, combined with the advocacy expertise provided by Epic, will help ensure that they have every opportunity to have their voice heard in relation to decisions that affect them.”

Marissa Ryan, chief executive of Epic, said the Covid-19 pandemic had been “extremely difficult” for children and young people across Ireland, and particularly those in care or leaving care.

“As services across Ireland stall and are overwhelmed as a result of the coronavirus, Epic and CLM are determined to provide a service to ensure care-experienced children and young people have access to justice, know their rights and have these rights upheld.”

The free legal advice clinics are funded by the Community Foundation for Ireland and RTÉ Does Comic Relief and will run on a monthly basis for an initial period of 12 months.

Further information on how to access the clinics can be found by contacting Epic on 01 872 7661.

Denise Charlton, chief executive of Community Foundation for Ireland, said the voices of children and young people “must be heard”, even in a pandemic.

“They must not be brushed aside, ignored or silenced when important decisions are being taken about their lives which could impact future health, wellbeing and opportunities,” Ms Charlton said.

She added that Epic and CLM are to be congratulated for “recognising this need and stepping up to the plate in protecting the rights of vulnerable teenagers at a key moment in their young lives”.