A&L Goodbody LLP, Mercy Law Resource Centre and Focus Ireland launch second housing report
"Housing rights and homelessness – Lessons from a pro bono partnership – Impact of the pandemic and beyond"
Five years ago, A&L Goodbody LLP (ALG) Mercy Law Resource Centre (Mercy Law) and Focus Ireland came together with the help of Public Interest Law Alliance, a project of FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centre) to launch a unique pro bono partnership, which led to the development of an innovative housing law clinic. Fast forward to 2023, and the clinic remains as relevant as ever, tackling intersectional, clustered, and complex legal issues faced by those who are homeless, about to become homeless, and/or in need of housing assistance and support.
Through the housing law clinic, ALG, with the assistance, support and guidance of Mercy Law and Focus Ireland, provides free, professional, and timely legal advice and representation to persons and families most impacted by the ongoing housing and homelessness crisis.
In the second report, ALG, Mercy Law, and Focus Ireland examine and reflect on the impact of the clinic and the lessons learned from this unique partnership. The report particularly focuses on how the Covid-19 pandemic transformed the delivery of the project, the benefits and barriers of this. Operating virtually has allowed the clinic to have a greater geographic reach and create efficiencies to the clinic. However, the lack of human connection and access to technology were noted as potential barriers for some to engage with the service. Since commencing 503 clients were provided with end-to-end advice by ALG solicitors; with 287 supported virtually since the change in service. 80% of those supported through the clinic were based in Dublin with the remaining 20% spread across a number of different counties. Almost half of all the case referrals involved a family unit and one third identifying as coming from a minority group presenting with more than one legal issue.
ALG Managing Partner, David Widger notes that: “ALG is proud that over the past five years, this unique partnership has enabled our lawyers to provide early legal advice to individuals and families affected by the housing and homelessness crisis. Our pro bono practice strives to increase and improve access to justice for those in our society who find themselves in the most vulnerable situations. Through this housing clinic, we have assisted clients in a time of real crisis and upheaval, and we look forward to continuing to do this through our partnership with Mercy Law and Focus Ireland.”
Mercy Law Managing Solicitor, Aoife Kelly-Desmond, says “Many people facing homelessness need help to get through the legal barriers preventing them from accessing safe, secure housing. With civil legal aid largely unavailable for housing and homelessness matters, it is left to Mercy Law and other NGOs to step in. The scale of unmet legal need is significant, and this partnership is of huge value in linking a large pool of skilled lawyers with those facing a housing crisis. The continued operation of the clinic over a turbulent period is a testament to the flexibility, dedication and commitment of all involved to ensuring access to justice for our mutual clients.”
Mike Allen, Director of Advocacy at Focus Ireland noted; ‘’As the housing crisis deepens, a wider group of people than ever before are finding themselves at risk of homelessness, often in complex circumstances. In these circumstances, access to reliable, professional legal advice is a vital service, and A&L Goodbody’s partnership with Mercy Law Centre and Focus Ireland’s Advice and Information Services has proven to be a lifeline for many people facing distressing circumstances’’.
Notes to editors
- Mercy Law Resource Centre (MLRC) is an independent law centre, registered charity and company limited by guarantee. MLRC provides free legal advice and representation for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. It also seeks to advocate for change in laws, policies and attitudes which unduly and adversely impact people who are at the margins of our society. MLRC provides five key services: free legal advice clinics; legal representation in the areas of housing and social welfare law; legal support and training to organisations working in the field of homelessness; policy work; and a befriending service. MLRC’s clients are local authority tenants and people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. For more about our work, see www.mercylaw.ie
- Earlier in 2023, MLRC published a policy report entitled ‘Making Free Legal and Advocacy Services Accessible – Building a hybrid service delivery model for Mercy Law Resource Centre’ with support from the Community Foundation Ireland. It is available here.
- Figures released from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage from April 2023 show that 12,259 persons in emergency accommodation including 3,594 children. For more information, see Focus Ireland’s Knowledge Hub Latest Figures – Donate – Focus Ireland