Developing a strategy for access to advice and support on Social Welfare Law in England and Wales
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Report Launch

Over 100 guests packed out the MacMillan Room in the House of Commons to see the launch of Low Commission's report on January 13th.

In addition to Lord Low's introduction to the Report, Lord Woolf (former Lord Chief Justice), Lord McNally (recent Justice Minister) and Andy Slaughter MP (Opposition Justice Spokesman) all gave speeches welcoming the report.

Lord Low outlined the key themes and recommendations of the report and suggested there was something that all stakeholders and parties could take away from it. He emphasised that the Commission had deliberately not pushed for a reversal of the recent legislative reforms of legal aid, but sought to explore other funding avenues alongside innovations and capacity building initiatives within the sector. Lord Low also emphasised that early advice and later legal intervention should be seen as a continuum rather than in competition with each other; overall all early advice and action, supported by prevention and public legal education initiatives could help more people resolve social welfare but specialist expertise is also needed with legal intervention as the essential backstop.

Lord Woolf commented that this was a milestone report, with similar scope and ambitions to his own Civil Justice Review which led to a major overhaul in the way the courts operate - the challenge would be to secure the resources to put the proposed new framework for social welfare advice and legal support into effect.

Lord McNally, now stepping down from the Ministry of Justice to take up the Chair of the Youth Justice Board, said how important it was for independent commissions like this to be able to contribute to Government thinking and drive a new agenda forwards in light of the recent difficult legal aid reforms. He commended the Commission for its expertise, and for the independent and impartial way that it had approached its task.

Andy Slaughter was so impressed with the report that he suggested that the Opposition should shamelessly raid from it, and be willing to use the report as a policy blueprint should they find themselves in Government in 2015. He argued that post-LASPO the Commission was effectively filling a policy vacuum in the area of social welfare advice.