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Flac reports rise in debt queries

Resource type: News

Irish Times | [ View Original Source (opens in new window) ]


Ireland urgently needs a better debt settlement system according to Free Legal Advice Centres (Flac) who experienced a 45 per cent increase in debt-related queries in 2010.

In its annual report released today, the voluntary legal aid organisation revealed that since 2007, the amount of debt-related enquiries that they received annually had risen by over 400 per cent through 2010.

“Putting a comprehensive debt settlement system in place must be an absolute priority for the government in order to begin addressing the over-indebted, highly stressful situations currently experienced by thousands of Irish citizens,” said director general Noeline Blackwell.

Overall, queries received by Flac were up slightly from 2009 with 10,967 people coming into a centre and 9,712 telephoning the organisation throughout 2010.

Some 95 per cent of people seeking help from Flac in 2010 had not previously accessed any legal advice, whether that be privately or through the state run Legal Aid Board.

Family law commanded the largest proportion of queries, totalling 24 per cent of all calls and 30.5 per cent of centre visitors.

Despite the large proportional increase, debt related queries came in third overall at 9.7 per cent of calls and 7.2 per cent of visitors, slightly behind employment law which totalled 8.7 per cent and 14.2 per cent of respective queries.

The report by Flac, whose 650-plus lawyers provide legal advice voluntarily across the country, criticised the Government’s provision of services.

“While our volunteers provide a valuable first stop information and advice service, this cannot replace the services of the state-funded Legal Aid Board which urgently needs more resources in order to fulfil its remit in a timely fashion,” said Ms Blackwell. “It is the most vulnerable people in our society who need advice and support to navigate a complex legal system.”

In its executive summary, the report welcomed the State’s decision in 2010 to drop its appeal against a 2007 High Court ruling with regards to transgender recognition. The original ruling had found that Irish law was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights because it failed to provide for the recognition of transgender persons.

It resulted in the first declaration of incompatibility under the European Convention of Human Rights Act 2003, which forced the government to change the law.

Free Legal Advice Centres (Flac) is an Atlantic grantee.

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