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MOVES TO IMPROVE ACCESS TO JUSTICE

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A package of measures aimed at improving access to justice in Scotland was announced today. ...
A package of measures aimed at improving access to justice in Scotland was announced today.

Speaking at the launch of Glasgow City Council's review of money advice provision in the city, justice minister Jim Wallace said he would be taking forward recommendations from a working group set up to look at current provision of legal advice and information across the country.

An action plan to lay the foundations for a community legal service for Scotland will now be taken forward by the Scottish executive and the Scottish Legal Aid Board. It will include:

* The creation of three pilot partnerships, one in a rural area, to look at local advice needs and service provision and seek to tailor supply to demand

* A national survey of current provision and supply of legal advice and information

* A review of the advice and assistance scheme operated by the Scottish Legal Aid Board

* A review of service delivery mechanisms using IT and outreach services

In addition, Mr Wallace announced that the executive would enter a partnership with Glasgow City Council to share ideas, information and best practice and carry out joint work on needs assessment for the city, including an initiative on debt profiling.

Mr Wallace said:

'Advice and information have a vital role to play in helping people to tackle their problems. They make a crucial contribution to effective access to justice. The programme of work I have announced today provide us with the information we need to take a more strategic approach to legal advice and information. It will allow us to test new methods of service delivery, based on partnership with all the key stakeholders. And it will provide a solid foundation for developing a community legal service for Scotland which will focus on the real needs of real people.'

Deputy minister for social justice Hugh Henry said:

'Money advice is a key element. People need help to tackle their financial problems before they spiral out of control. They need early intervention, to enable them to deal with debt free from the threat of enforcement action. This lies at the heart of the executive's new approach to debt management. That is why we have invested an additional£3m a year in money advice services -£630,000 of that here in Glasgow. And that is why we will be creating a national debt arrangement scheme for people facing multiple debt. I warmly welcome the action Glasgow City Council will be taking to ensure that the right high-quality advice services will be available where and when they are needed.'

The deputy leader of Glasgow City Council, Jim Coleman, said:

'Implementation of the recommendations contained in the consultant's report would offer the citizens of Glasgow the most comprehensive, strategic law and money advice service in the country. The quality of life for thousands of Glaswegians will hopefully be improved substantially as a result of these ambitious plans'.

The working group was set up in October 2000 and included representatives from a wide range of organisations. These were: the Scottish Legal Aid Board, Shelter Scotland, Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, Scottish Association of Law Centres, Federation of Independent Advice Centres, HomePoint, Scottish Homes, Scottish Employment Rights Network, Citizens Advice Scotland, Money Advice Scotland, the Scottish Consumer Council, the statutory equality bodies and the Law Society of Scotland.

The group's report, Review of Legal Advice and Information Provision in Scotland, was published on 26 November 2001. It can be viewed on the Scottish Executive website www.scotland.gov.uk

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