Unfair practise of assessing HAP as income when trying to access legal aid must end - Senator Lynn Boylan
Sinn Féin Senator Lynn Boylan has called on the Minister for Justice to immediately address the deeply unfair and discriminatory practice of denying tenants in receipt of Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) access to civil legal aid.
Speaking in the Seanad today, Ms Boylan outlined how the practise of assessing HAP as income when applying for civil legal aid is discriminatory and most likely a breach of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the right to access the courts.
Senator Boylan said:
“I am deeply disappointed by the response I received this morning from Minister of State, Peter Burke on behalf of Minister McEntee, which was to effectively hide behind an ongoing judicial review.
"This is an urgent situation which demands urgent attention. Everyday people, mostly women, are being denied access to the courts as a result of this discriminatory interpretation of the law.
“How can the Minister stand over a situation whereby two individuals with the same income are treated differently when it comes to applying for civil legal aid?
"How is it fair for the State to treat those tenants in local authority or housing body accommodation differently to those who are eligible for social housing but through no fault of their own are forced into the private sector because of a chronic housing shortage?
“HAP is paid directly to a landlord not to the tenant but by counting it as income it pushes individuals over the income threshold for civil legal aid.
"The implications from this mean that women in precarious situations, including those who have fled from domestic violence, are unable to take proceedings regarding maintenance and children cannot have their voices heard in respect of access proceedings.”