FLAC & INAR Equal Access Project – Anti Racism Advocacy blog post by Úna Walsh – Clerical Officer with the Legal Aid Board

FLAC & INAR Equal Access Project – Anti Racism Advocacy blog post by Úna Walsh – Clerical Officer with the Legal Aid BoardEAP blog 2 image

I came to know about the Equal Access programme through an email sent from the FLAC - Free Legal Advice Centres to my workplace, the Legal Aid Board.. I was interested in the programme as it aimed to improve access to justice for those who are subject to discrimination, on the basis of race or being a member of the Traveller community, whether that be through employment or in accessing goods and services. Part of my role within the Legal Aid Board is to aid in the provision of civil legal aid and arranging advice consultations, essentially providing access to justice for those who are of a low-income. During my time in the Legal Aid Board, I have encountered clients who have enquired about taking cases to the Workplace Relations Commission and I always felt that l was ill-equipped to talk about the process and to direct clients as Legal Aid does not cover Workplace Relations Commission cases. I felt this programme would provide me with an invaluable opportunity to develop important new skills, in advocacy, advice and information provision.

While I had been previously aware of the Workplace Relations Commission and its service, I was completely unaware of the complaint process and the different legislative acts involved. Also, while I was aware of FLAC, I was not aware of the other organisation behind this joint project, INAR nor was I aware of the work that INAR does.

Now, upon completion of the programme, I feel as though I have a comprehensive understanding of the relevant sections of the Equal Status Acts, the Employment Equality Act and the Intoxicating Liquor Act, necessary in taking a case of racial discrimination to the WRC. During the programme, we received a large amount of theoretical notes, practical exercise sheets and real-life scenario problem questions that will be paramount in retaining my new skills going forward.

I have learned about the different types of advocacy, the ethics and scope of the role of an advocate, how to prepare for a Workplace Relations Commission case on the nine grounds set out under the Equal Status Acts; requesting and obtaining information under the Data Protection Act 2018 and the Freedom of Information Act, and pointers on structuring a first consultation with a client among many other topics.

Other topics that we covered during the programme included, the different grounds of discrimination that cases could be taken on, the exceptions and exemptions under equality legislation, how to take instructions from a client, investigation into the respondent, reasonable accommodation required of employers, and the process of written notification to the respondent.

What I found most enjoyable was the practical exercises. We were given the opportunity to put together a submission for a hypothetical case study and present as an advocate on behalf of our client. I enjoyed this as it gave me an opportunity to utilise the skills I had been developing over the course of the programme. As part of the final programme assessment we were obliged to prepare an argument in a group negotiation setting on behalf of members of the Traveller community.

This programme was important as it highlighted to me my own generational prejudices towards the Traveller community, how a majority of the Irish population might feel this way and how this view affects Travellers in their day to day lives. I do truly believe that this course has dismantled my previous prejudices and I now understand how important it is for me now, as an advocate, to highlight the injustices that the Traveller community and indeed all marginalised and minority groups face in their day to day lives.

The aim of this training is that all of us as participants will go on to implement what we have learned as a nationwide advocacy network supporting those who are seeking justice. I hope that we can continue to pass on the quality information that we have received as part of this programme.

Having completed this programme at what is essentially the start of my career, I now have insight into other potential careers that exist and this has been extremely beneficial to me.

I now feel equipped to guide and advocate future potential clients through the Workplace Relations Commission process and impart information on different aspects of the process.

Overall, I now feel as though I have further enhanced my information provision, advice and advocacy skills and I am delighted to have taken part in the programme. I would recommend it to anyone wanting to develop a new skill or to learn more about taking a case of racial discrimination to the Workplace Relations Commission.

Anti-Racism Advocacy Training

The EAP launched a unique free training programme in Anti-Racism Advocacy to equip non-legal equality advocates with the knowledge and skills to represent claimants at the Workplace Relations Commission. Students will learn how to effectively put together and present a case to the WRC on behalf of someone who has been subjected to racial discrimination in employment or in accessing goods and services.

*Please note this training has commenced and is no longer accepting applications.

Anti-Racism Advocacy Training Testimonials

The training element of FLAC & INAR Ireland's Equal Access Project is now complete. Listen to course participants Rory O'Connell, Exchange House Ireland and Tehmina Kazi, Traveller Visibility Group Cork on why they signed up. We are now looking forward to the next phase of network building & learning application #EAP2022 external link



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