Friday 24 November 2017

Legal Aid Board row over extra managers

Stock photo
Stock photo
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Bosses at the cash-strapped Legal Aid Board introduced a new layer of regional managers - despite a series of warnings about the need to focus resources on slashing waiting lists.

There was concern in both political and legal circles last month after the board announced plans to introduce strict curtailments surrounding the provision of legal aid.

Experts say the move could force parents embroiled in family law cases to appear in court without any legal representation whatsoever. Just days after the restrictions were announced, the board rowed back on the decision after serious concerns were expressed by solicitors.

The matter has now been deferred, with the board saying it is exploring other options.

The Irish Independent has now learned that in 2015, board bosses were warned of the need to reduce the waiting lists.

Emails seen by this newspaper show that there was serious concern about plans to create a new layer of regional management, instead of focusing on the waiting list delays.

Solicitors who provide services through the Legal Aid Board "expressed a view that another layer of management is not required at the moment and given long waiting lists, resources would be better used to try and shorten same".

One solicitor noted that the concerns were expressed to the board, however it still "unfortunately" went ahead and "approved the filling of the two regional manager posts (presumably when approval from the Department of Public Expenditure is received)."

A spokesman for the board said the move was important in easing the workload facing the board's director, who previously managed a network of 130 solicitors.

"It was considered that the 'span of control' was too large in the absence of significant senior level support."

Irish Independent

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