The Low Commission launched a Welsh ‘manifesto’ this week to put ‘advice at the heart’ of the next government’s agenda and called for devolution of the legal aid budget. ‘We hope to build on the progress made in Wales in establishing the National Advice Network (NAN), an initiative we strongly lobbied for in our first report,’ the group said.’ Pic by Matthew Wilkinson, Flickr.
The concept of ‘a national network’ was at the heart of the Low Commission’s strategy for how advice services should be run ‘to maximise capacity in an era of reduced public funding’, it said.to put ‘advice at the heart’ of the next government’s agendaIn establishing the network, the Welsh government has proven that our approach works,’ the Commission said. ‘The function of the network is to provide overall strategic leadership and co-ordination for the advice sector in Wales, to get a better picture of need and gaps in provision, to spread good practice, learning and quality standards, and to embed partnership working.’
‘This manifesto will help to put advice at the heart of the next Welsh government’s agenda,’ commented Bob Chapman, chair of the NAN. The manifesto also said that any further devolution of justice system should ‘involve handing control of the Welsh share of the legal aid budget to the Welsh government’.
The manifesto included the following proposals:
- the NAN should become a permanent function, providing strategic direction and co-ordination of funding and support for regional/local planning of advice services;
- the Welsh Government should establish a ‘clearing house’ for all public funding programmes involving advice services;
- access to advice should be adopted as one of the measures for testing progress against the following government strategies: financial inclusion; equalities; child poverty; and well-being of future generations;
- any further devolution of justice system competencies to Wales ‘should, as a distinct jurisdiction develops, involve handing control of the Welsh share of the legal aid budget to the Welsh government’;
- the Welsh Government should look to establish a ‘second tier’ internet/telephone specialist support service for the whole advice sector in Wales; and
- the Welsh Government should include a core strand on Public Legal Education in the ESDGC framework.
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