Developing a strategy for access to advice and support on Social Welfare Law in England and Wales
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Lord Low responds to Minister's announcement

Welcoming Justice Minister Simon Hughes MP's statement on “More support for separating couples and parents,” Lord Low of Dalston who recently chaired a Commission on the “Advice Deficit” for legal and other social welfare issues said:

“It is much to the Minister’s credit that he has recognised the growing crisis across civil and family Courts caused by so many litigants having no recourse to publicly funded advice or representation, and that he is now delivering an imaginative court based scheme so that advice and support will be on offer in the court system. The combination of measures outlined – web-tools, court advice/support, and a helpline - will make a big difference”

“However, we would wish to press the Minister to go further as this is a model of advice provision that needs to be extended across all civil courts, as well as Tribunals that make complex judgements on life impacting issues such as disability benefit claims or wrongful dismissal. These problems – whether to do with family breakdown, housing or welfare - rarely come in single silos, so the advice service needs to be comprehensive. It is also important to ensure that the extra advice on offer is of appropriate legal quality, capacity and that all relevant specialist and general legal advice providers are encouraged to participate in the new scheme.”

Lord Low added “I am delighted that funding has been found for this new scheme, however the £2 million guaranteed needs to be viewed in context of the £450 million annually that has been taken out of the civil and family legal aid. We still have a long way to go to cure the advice deficit!”

Notes

(i) The Low Commission was established in 2013 to chart a new way forwards for advice services following he devastating legal aid cuts which saw the removal of funding for the majority of civil and family cases, and from most of the work of non profit legal advice providers

(ii) The Low Commission reported earlier this year and proposed an Advice Strategy based on local plans, and identified an alternative funding model for advice work

(iii) For more information about the Low Commission go to http://www.lowcommission.org.uk/