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6 June, 2005

Public Legal Education needs co-ordination

On Friday the government was called upon to develop a coherent national strategy for public legal education.

The Advice Services Alliance (ASA), Citizenship Foundation (CF) and the Legal Action Group (LAG) delivered a letter to the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs calling on the government to recognise the value of public legal education (PLE).

The groups want the government to take steps to develop a coherent national stragegy actively promotes collaboration across Whitehall as well as with the voluntary and private sector.

They believe that action is needed to increase public knowledge and understanding of the law and rights, if people are to become more effective citizens. People need to be given the confidence, knowledge and skills they need to manage the problems they face in the course of their lives.

'We need to see fundamental changes in the way the public learn about their individual rights, to bridge the knowledge gap that is so evident when it comes to legal issues', said Martin Jones, project director of ASA’s Advicenow Project.

This approach was strongly supported by responses to a consultation paper published by last September. The three organisations are proposing:

• An independent steering group to guide the development of a national strategy, chaired by a senior figure from a non-governmental background

• Group members to include representatives from all relevant government departments, but with a majority drawn from outside government

• Government funding to support the work of the group

Commenting on the proposals, Tony Breslin, chief executive of the Citizenship Foundation said:

'Clearly an understanding of the law and legal system underpins the successful functioning of our democracy. Learning about the law is already a key part of the Citizenship curriculum in schools but there is a much wider audience that needs to be reached.'

'We were encouraged by the level of interest in public legal education shown in the responses to our discussion paper,' said Nony Ardill, policy director of Legal Action Group. 'The challenge now is to harness this interest and to persuade the government that the idea of a national strategy has legs.'

The proposals are set out in a position paper drawing on the responses to a consultation document launched last September. Also published today is a summary of these responses, most of which warmly welcomed the consultation and the chance to participate in this debate.

For a copy of the position paper, the summary of responses and the initial consultation paper, contact Nony Ardill (nardill@lag.org.uk; 020 7833 7435).

Alternatively, download the position paper by clicking the link below.

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