Headlines: June 28th, 2004

Consultations have begun on a series of measures to improve the Community Legal Service, which gives advice on issues such as housing, debt and employment. The proposals are based on an independent review of the CLS, written by Matrix Research and Consultancy, and they have been published by Constitutional Affairs Minister David Lammy, who is seeking views by early September.The CLS has been operating since April 2000 with the intention of improving access to legal and advice services, concentrating on areas particularly affecting people’s daily lives, such as housing, debt, employment, welfare benefits, community care, discrimination and mental health. Last year it advised a million people, helping them to avoid social exclusion.

Mr. Lammy said, though, that there was a great deal of unmet need and it was necessary to consider whether changes needed to be made to the structure of the CLS to make it more effective and to ensure that the advice it provided was of the highest quality and was in tune with local community needs.

The consultation paper covers five areas – making the aims and function of the CLS more transparent, developing the accountability of the service, looking at funding sources and protecting the budget of the CLS, looking at CLS partnerships and reducing inspection requirements for good providers and finding ways of making partnerships more responsive tolocal needs. It is being sent to members of the legal professions, not-for-profit agencies and organisations providing advice and guidance, government departments, local authorities and other public sector bodies.

It will be available on www.dca.gov.uk/index.htm http://www.dca.gov.uk/index.htm  and the deadline for responses is September 8th.