514. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Justice the status of the review of the civil legal aid scheme; the timeframe in which it will be held; and the details of any public consultation or engagement with stakeholders that it may include. [47649/21]


Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Deputy Hildegarde Naughton): The Justice Plan 2021 contains a commitment to commence a review of the Civil Legal Aid Scheme this year. In this regard, my Department is currently in the process of scoping the review and it is expected that it will commence later this year.
It is now over 40 years since the first civil legal aid scheme was launched in Ireland and over 25 years since the scheme was placed on a statutory footing following the enactment of the Civil Legal Aid Act 1995.
The Legal Aid Board and the Civil Legal Aid Scheme it administers have served those of limited means well over those years. The Board’s provision of legal advice and representation, as well as more recently its role in the Family Mediation Service, plays an important part in resolving family disputes.
Since the enactment of the 1995 Act and the making of the Civil Legal Aid Regulations 1996, the Regulations relating to financial eligibility have been substantially revised on three occasions.
It is recognised however, that demands on the Civil Legal Aid Scheme have grown and that in order to provide maximum benefit to those it was established to serve, a review of the Scheme is appropriate, not least in light of societal change in Ireland over recent years. We must also acknowledge the reality that the resources available to fund the Civil Legal Aid Scheme are not infinite.
We must aim to ensure that those in most need and whose means are insufficient can continue to avail of the Civil Legal Aid Scheme to the maximum extent possible, consistent with their legal needs.
The terms of reference for the review are still in the process of being finalised. However, it is my intention that there will be significant consultation. This will ensure that the insights of those from the non-governmental sector with experience of the Civil Legal Aid Scheme and its clients will be captured by the review. The review may also have scope to undertake research to enable a data informed approach to this important initiative.
Ultimately the review should map out a future for the Civil Legal Aid Scheme, which in my view is one which will provide for a flexible service that has, as far as possible, the capacity and resources to respond to the priority legal assistance needs of those of insufficient means.