Additional resources committed to legal aid in divorce cases
The effects of legal aid reforms are starting to be felt, according to Minister for Legal Protection Sander Dekker in a letter to the House of Representatives. Among other things, services to those seeking justice have been given a boost. At the same time, the use of subsidised legal aid has declined. This has enabled €19 million to be released in the period up to 2024 for legal aid in divorce cases, which poses a considerable bottleneck to both those seeking justice and legal-aid counsellors.
‘The effects of two years of hard work on legal aid reforms are now starting to be felt, both for those who want to put an end to their problems and legal-aid counsellors.’
Work is under way on developing a new tool to support a good diagnosis and advice for people faced with a problem. A considerable boost has also been given to the online services offered by the Legal Services Counter (Juridisch Loket), which include a digital assistant on the website to assist people in receiving advice on legal questions on divorce and dismissal issues. In addition to the digital assistant, the option of making video calls will be introduced in 2021 to enable those seeking justice to discuss their problems with a member of the legal team at the Legal Services Counter in an accessible manner.
The aim is to improve the online services in the years ahead in consultation with the partners concerned, including the Legal Aid Board (Raad voor Rechtsbijstand) and the Netherlands Bar Association (NOvA). The online services form a cornerstone of the new system. These services will enable many citizens, irrespective of their income, to obtain an answer to their legal questions in an accessible manner and to help them solve their problem as far as possible independently.
Decline in legal-aid cases in administrative law matters
The number of legal-aid cases in administrative law matters has declined by over 10%. The aim for the period ahead is to achieve a further reduction to at least 15% by avoiding disputes between citizens and the government as much as possible. Among other things, this will be achieved by putting a sharper focus on the impact of legislation and regulations on the legal-aid system. Together with a large number of implementing organisations, such as the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV), the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration, the Social Insurance Bank (SVB) and local authorities, the government will examine ways of more effectively avoiding the unnecessary juridification of public administration. More personal contact and services tailored to individual needs will create a more human dimension.
The compensation for legal-aid counsellors who provide assistance in divorce cases is seriously out of step with the actual time spent on these cases. A concrete example is the effort required to draw up a parenting plan, which became mandatory on 1 March 2009 for divorce cases involving minors. A total of €11 million will therefore be made available in the period up to 2024 for an initiative for the benefit of legal assistance providers who are required to draw up a parenting plan as part of their work. Furthermore, €8 million will be made available for a similar initiative for four-party meetings between divorcing partners and their legal assistance providers.
In addition, the Legal Aid Board has prioritised the development of legal aid packages for divorce cases. The parenting plan and the four-party meetings will be included in one of the legal aid packages for divorce cases.