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Law Centre for Children to Open in Ireland

Resource type: News

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

By Noeline Blackwell (FLAC/PILA)

Earlier this year a steering committee secured funding to establish a law centre for children in Ireland and to fund its operation for its first two years.

There are similar law centres around the world – and as close to home as the Children’s Law Centre in Belfast – that have achieved extraordinary successes in their use of the law to promote, protect and realise the rights of children.

The case for a law centre for children in Ireland is clear. In Ireland, children cannot initiate legal action without a “next friend” and they have difficulties accessing legal remedies for violations of their rights.

Research and the work of non-governmental organisations identify that children face challenges having their rights protected in a wide range of areas, including: disability, education, child protection and immigration. Moreover, children in care, in detention and in need of mental health services are especially vulnerable.

Children’s difficulty in accessing legal services leaves many of them unable to seek redress for ill treatment and makes it difficult for them to seek information and advice.

Many organisations in the children’s sector campaign for reform of child law and policy and advocate for improvements in children’s services.

Some also provide information and advice to children and their families.

However, there is no single organisation equipped with the expertise and knowledge to provide legal advice and information on child law matters.

Although a small number of organisations provide free or affordable legal advice and representation to those who cannot otherwise pay for it, no organisation currently provides these services to children or supports the children’s sector in child law matters.

The vision for a law centre for children in Ireland has been supported by legal practitioners, academics, non-governmental organisations in the children and legal sectors, and highly regarded children’s rights advocates.

The aim of the law centre is to advance the implementation and the exercise of children’s rights through increased and enhanced use of the law and the legal system nationally and internationally.

It will pursue this aim by undertaking strategic litigation; improving the quality of representation in children’s cases and providing children and those who work with and for them with general and specialist legal information about their rights. In conjunction with partners, it will also advocate for the progressive reform of the law relating to children and their rights.

The Children’s Law Centre in Belfast, Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) and Public Interest Law Alliance (PILA) are Atlantic grantees.