Developing a strategy for access to advice and support on Social Welfare Law in England and Wales
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Lord Low on phase two of the Commission

I and my fellow Commissioners have been extremely pleased by the response to our report. It has found favour with politicians of different parties, and with the stakeholders we have been working with. It has chimed with how advice organisations are thinking about their future, and with new thinking about how services should be shaped and commissioned. Policy makers have welcomed the report for its rigour and realism.

However, we also understand that we are living in a very fluid and fast moving policy environment, continuing economic and political uncertainty, and that the public debate can sometimes be hostile for "social welfare" messages. Developments in branding, communications, social media and competiveness with third sector advocates getting their voices heard have transformed the landscape of how civil society interacts with Government, politicians and the public. The days when a group of "wise heads" could form an expert commission, publish a chunky report and expect it to be implemented on the basis of the report's authority alone have long gone. Whitehall is adorned with electronic archives of reports from sources far more eminent than ours, never to be touched again.

So our next stage must be to move from the Low Commission to the Low Campaign. Detailed work needs to be undertaken on developing the campaign's messages and delivering advocacy and influencing activities. We intend to be proactive in continuing to gather evidence, communicating findings, engaging stakeholders and influencing policy makers in the run-up to the general election. We will meet key people involved in drafting party manifestos, ministers, shadow ministers, influential parliamentarians, civil servants responsible for implementing policy in this area and seek endorsements from opinion-formers. We must also make ourselves heard in the media, and through public engagement work to build both a network of advocates for the report's recommendations and an alliance of supporters amongst charities and community groups.

We plan to publish further evidence reports in the near future—including the economic case for advice and legal support, and to set out our stall at the main party conferences. We will keep you updated on this site with details of events, activities, innovations in the advice sector and monitoring of financial and other data on the impact of the cut-backs in advice and legal support services. With the general election just a year away, there is no better time to be stepping up our efforts to secure political buy-in for our vision of a sustainable social welfare advice sector. Our purpose is to see as many of our recommendations as possible implemented in practice in order to reduce the advice deficit.

To support the Commission in this work, we have formed an advisory group amongst the Commissioners and we are also delighted to welcome our new Campaigns and Research Manager—James Sandbach—onto the team. We are also grateful for the ongoing support of the Trusts, Foundations and law firms that have provided vital funding to make this work possible. We now have a window of opportunity to progress all the hard work from last year and make a real difference to the future of social welfare advice and legal support.