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On December 4, I announced that I was asking my officials to lead a short study which would bring together the evidence about the issues facing the advice sector on the ground. I asked them to examine:
The impact of the recession and the demand for civil legal advice.
The impact of civil legal advice fixed fees on local providersfinancially and in terms of the type of work they are taking on.
The initial experience of Community Legal Advice Centres, including the impact on other providers in the area.
Trends in funding from sources other than the Community Legal Service, including local authority funding, national lottery funding, charities, central Government Departments, and others.
Since my announcement, the study team have held meetings with relevant bodies and interested parties, and visited advice providers and funders in Bangor, Bristol, Caernarfon, Cardiff, Cornwall, Cumbria, the East Riding of Yorkshire, the London Boroughs of Camden and Wandsworth, Manchester, Norwich, Plymouth, Portsmouth and Tyne and Wear. These meetings provided invaluable information about what is happening on the ground and about the views of those whose day-to-day task is to help those suffering from legal problems.
We have been assisted in this task by a steering group including members of the bodies representing the not for profit advice sector and solicitors in private practice, as well as a range of other interested parties and Government Departments. I am very grateful for the help we have received from the steering group, and from the helpful and constructive attitude they have taken throughout the study.
I look forward to working with the steering group to identify the steps we should take to implement the studys recommendations. It is my intention that a full action plan will be prepared and published in September. I shall keep both Houses informed of developments in this very important area of work.
Copies of the report will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
The Minister of State, Government Equalities Office (Maria Eagle): The Equality Bill, currently before Parliament, will introduce a new single Equality Duty which will bring together the three existing race, disability and gender equality duties and extend to cover age, sexual orientation, religion or belief and gender reassignment in full. The Equality Duty will be supported by a number of specific duties, to be set out in secondary legislation, which will help public authorities in the better performance of the duty.
In June 2008, Government said we would consult on our policy proposals for specific duties. The document we are publishing today sets out our proposals and asks for comments. The consultation period will run until September 2009.
I am placing copies of this document in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies will also be available on the Government Equalities Office website at: www.equalities. gov.uk
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Jonathan Shaw): In 2005, the Government made public their commitment to work towards equality for disabled people by 2025. Since then we have come a long way but, as many disabled people know, we still have a long way to go. Part of this ongoing commitment is our plan to legislate for a Right to Control for disabled people. Disabled people have told us that many of them do not have the choice or control over their lives that non-disabled people take for granted. This lack of choice and control is a key barrier to participating and contributing as equal citizens. Powers contained in the Welfare Reform Bill, which is currently going through Parliament, recognise that disabled people are the experts in their own lives. We have worked closely with disabled people and their organisations to develop this right, including with our Advisory Group, chaired by Baroness Jane Campbell.
Today, with the publication of the consultation paper Making choice and control a reality for disabled people: Consultation on the Right to Control, we are launching our consultation on the Right to Control. This paper has been co-produced with input from disabled people, independent living experts and other stakeholders. The consultation exercise will ensure that the trailblazers are designed to reflect the challenges of local implementation, while delivering real choice and control for disabled people.
The consultation documents are available on the Office for Disability Issues website at: www.odi.gov.uk/right-to-control. Copies of the document will be placed in the House Library.