Joint Committee On Human Rights Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


35.  Memorandum from Law Centres Federation

  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 interest.

  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 cases.

  14.  Local experts in human rights legislation will enable effective referrals to be made to the Commission where appropriate.

  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 human rights.

2 July 2001



 
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