35. Memorandum from Law Centres
1. The Law Centres Federation represents
fifty Law Centres throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
All member Law Centres employ solicitors and experienced caseworkers
and specialise in the range of subjects covered by social welfare
law: immigration and nationality, housing, employment, mental
health, education, welfare benefits and all forms of discrimination.
2. Law Centres are independent and provide
free legal services to people living or working in their local
communities. They are funded mainly by local authorities and the
Legal Services Commission and are members of the not-for-profit
legal and advice sector.
3. Law Centres provide casework services
and have taken cases to the European Court of Human Rights. They
work closely with other local advice agencies taking referrals,
providing consultancy services and training.
4. Law Centres have a well known record
of upholding and promoting human rights and have welcomed the
incorporation of the Human Rights Act 1998.
5. We support the establishment of an independent
Human Rights Commission.
6. We believe that a Human Rights Commission
should be given the tasks of raising awareness and developing
a culture of human rights in the UK.
7. One of the priorities should be to assist
in the development of information provision for the public, and
to develop training programmes on the Act.
8. It would be beneficial for the new Human
Rights Commission to liaise closely with other bodies including
the Legal Services Commission and to consider potential opportunities
to develop services within the new Community Legal Service.
9. The Law Centres Federation would welcome
working closely with a new Human Rights Commission.
10. All Law Centres have the Specialist
Quality Mark awarded by the Legal Services Commission.
11. Law Centres are based in some of the
most deprived areas of the country and Law Centre workers are
often approached by people who have had their human rights abused.
Law Centres therefore have direct access to cases that contravene
the Convention on Human Rights.
12. We believe that a Human Rights Commission
is vital for providing a central focus for raising awareness and
for taking test cases or interventions where it is in the public
13. We also believe that it will be important
for members of the public to have a local legal service, such
as a Law Centre with workers who have specialist knowledge of
human rights legislation and the expertise to take up human rights
14. Local experts in human rights legislation
will enable effective referrals to be made to the Commission where
15. We believe that the Human Rights Commission
must be given the resources needed to provide services centrally
and at a local level.
16. The Law Centres Federation looks forward
to opening a dialogue on how central and local resources can be
harnessed to provide a national strategy to promote and protect
2 July 2001