The Legal Aid Board has opened a new co-located Law and Mediation Centre in Kilkenny.
The Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan was in Kilkenny on Friday for the official opening and described it as “a centre of innovation in the delivery of legal aid and mediation".
The Legal Aid Board is the State agency that provides legal advice and legal representation in civil law cases to persons of limited means, as well as providing the family mediation service which seeks to resolve family disputes without recourse to legal proceedings.
Speaking at the opening, Minister Flanagan said: “Since the transfer of responsibility for mediation to the Legal Aid Board in 2011, it has sought to integrate the delivery of mediation and legal aid services.
“As a first step in this regard, the Board has pursued a strategy of co-locating the offices for the provision of legal aid services and mediation.”
“Here in Kilkenny, the Legal Aid Board has chosen to go beyond simply the physical co-location of the two services. The Board is using Kilkenny as a centre of innovation in the delivery of legal aid and mediation.
“The Kilkenny Project reflects the desire of the Legal Aid Board to be responsive to the changing needs of customers, and to enhance the ability of the Board to most effectively discharge the range of services that it provides.”
Philip O’Leary, Chairperson of the Legal Aid Board, said: “We will be focusing closely on is the potential for the family mediation services provided by the Board to become more central to our overall offering to persons who may otherwise assume that formal court proceedings are the only viable option in family breakdown situations.
“We believe there is potential for family mediation services to provide a greater number of persons with a non-judicial option to resolving the difficult issues that often arise in a family breakdown situation.
“I believe that mediation can and will play an increasingly important role in supporting separating couples, which will benefit those involved and also the wider family law system.”
In 2015, the Legal Aid Board commenced a ‘Vision and Change’ Initiative, in which staff of the organisation were asked to put forward ideas on what the organisation should look like and how the customer would be best served.
It was decided to select Kilkenny as co-located law centre and family mediation office, and use this as a prototype office that would test ideas in service delivery that could, if shown to be successful, be replicated across the Legal Aid Board’s network of offices.
The project began in 2017 and will run for two years, with those measures found to be most effective then being rolled out to other Legal Aid Board offices.
The co-located Legal Aid Board Law and Mediation Centre is located at on the 1st Floor of the Smithlands Centre, Loughboy, Kilkenny.
The Legal Aid Board has a network of 30 full time law centres and seventeen mediation offices located throughout the country.
Waiting times in Kilkenny for both legal services and mediation are among the lowest in the country, at eight and ten weeks respectively.