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FLAC opposes ‘ineffective’ wording on care
Ministers announcing plans for a referendum on gender equality Pic: RollingNews.ie

19 Feb 2024 / ireland Print

FLAC opposes ‘ineffective’ wording on care

Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) has said that it is supporting the proposed ‘family’ amendment in the forthcoming referendums, but will not be supporting the proposal on ‘care’.

The group, which campaigns for improved access to justice, has described the wording on care as “a missed opportunity for the rights of women, carers, older people, and people with disabilities”.

In an analysis, FLAC also states that what it describes as “a rushed process” for scrutinising and finalising the amendments “has contributed to the weaknesses of the proposals now before the people”.

The two referendums take place on 8 March. The first referendum will be on a proposed amendment to article 41.1 that will broaden the protection offered to the family to include families other than those based on marriage.

The second vote will be on a proposal to repeal article 41.2, which includes a reference to women ‘in the home’, and insert a new article 42B to provide recognition for care within families.

‘Positive implications’

On the first vote. FLAC believes that the proposed change will ultimately have positive policy and legal implications in areas like social welfare, family, taxation, and succession law.

It adds that these will lead to “practical improvements in the lives of diverse families that are found by the courts to come within the definition of ‘durable relationships’”.

The group also calls on the Government to publish draft legislation setting out what relationships come within the definition of ‘durable relationships’.

‘Harmful stereotypes’ on care

FLAC, however, says it does not support the proposed wording on care, describing it as “ineffective”.

“It is unlikely to provide carers, people with disabilities, or older people with any new enforceable rights, or to require the State to provide improved childcare, personal assistance services, supports for independent-living, respite care or supports (at home or in school) for children with disabilities,” the group says.

“The amendment would give constitutional expression to harmful stereotypes, such as the concept that the provision of care – including the care of older adults and adults with disabilities – is the private responsibility of unpaid family members without any guarantee of State support,” it continues.

FLAC argues that the proposed new article 42B “endorses a status quo where women undertake the bulk of unpaid care work and places no obligation whatsoever on the State to redress this gender imbalance – rendering it an implicitly sexist amendment”.

The group also states that the proposed wording does nothing to enhance the rights of people with disabilities, and that it gives “constitutional expression to the harmful stereotype of people with disabilities as the subjects of family care, rather than autonomous individuals and rights-holders".

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