Developing a strategy for access to advice and support on Social Welfare Law in England and Wales
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Agenda for 2015-20 Parliament: Manifestos and beyond

The Low Commission has been working to make an impact on policy-making for the 2015-20 Government and Parliament, starting with the Party Manifestos and programmes for Government.

But how have we fared with the Parties? We have picked out key parts of their Manifestos on advice and legal support issues below that match with some of our thinking, priorities and the discussions we have held with all of the political Parties.

The Conservative Party Manifesto has made a number of commitments on supporting victims, reforming prisons and rehabilitation, tackling issues such as human trafficking and violence against women and girls; it also says "we will continue to review our legal aid systems, so they can continue to provide access to justice in an efficient way."

The Liberal Democrat Manifesto contains a section on access to justice, 3 key commitments being to:-
- Carry out an immediate review of civil Legal Aid, judicial review and court fees, in consultation with the judiciary, to ensure Legal Aid is available to all those who need it, that those of modest means can bring applications for judicial review of allegedly unlawful government action and that court and tribunal fees will not put justice beyond the reach of those who seek it.
- Support innovation like the provision of civil justice online and
expansion of alternative dispute resolution procedures.
- Encourage the use of mediation for separating couples, while protecting access to the family courts where necessary
- Develop a strategy that will deliver advice and legal support to help people with everyday problems like personal debt and social welfare issues, working across government and involving non-profit advice agencies

The Labour Party's Manifesto makes the following commitments
- widen access to legal aid for victims of domestic violence as part of a package of policies to end violence against women and girls
- abolish the tribunal fee system to improve workplace justice
- introduce a new collaborative model in youth justice to prevent youth re-offending
- give victims a voice in the justice system
- restore Sure Start centres as family hubs and encourage a range of local support services to co-locate
The Manifesto also pledges to protect the Human Rights Act and says that "we will make sure that access to legal representation, a cornerstone of our democracy, is not determined by personal wealth, but remains available to
those that need it."

NB - Since the General Election Labour has been reviewing its policies, and have established a Commission on Access to Justice which is yet to report.

The UKIP manifesto makes a number of commitments on welfare reform including abolishing the bedroom tax and transferring work capability assessments to personal GPs; it also proposes investing in foodbanks: "there is a high likelihood that they will also need additional support to deal with issues such as debt, family breakdown, addiction and poor physical or mental health. Many will need employment or legal advice. We will therefore contribute to the important work done by foodbanks and develop them into community advice centres for those most in need. UKIP will train and fund the cost of 800 advisers to work in 800 foodbanks, so the poorest in our society have free and easy access to timely help in their hour of need. "
The UKIP Manifesto also commits to "fund a higher standard of independent
advice available to all pensioners" (than that currently delivered by the Citizens Advice Pensions Guidance service.)

The Green Party's Manifesto makes some bold commitments on legal aid
- make equality before the law a fundamental constitutional right; we would restore the cuts to Legal Aid, costing around £700 million a year.
- reintroducing Legal Aid for reasonable levels of immigration and asylum
The Green Party's Manifesto also proposes to embed more advice in public health, primary care and community care, and to expand Women's Centres and effective holistic models run in the voluntary sector.