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13 December, 2005

The Right - and Responsibility - to Know

The Citizenship Foundation today welcomes the Department for Constitutional Affairs’ creation of a Public Legal Education Strategy Task Force, which will explore how everyone can access essential legal awareness and understanding.

Research shows that over a third of people will experience one or more legal problems in a three year period. These problems will include consumer problems, neighbour disputes, money/debt problems, housing, benefits, divorce and relationship breakdown, domestic violence and mental health problems. No action will be taken to resolve 20% of these problems, most commonly because people believe that nothing can be done. As a result over one million problems are left unresolved every year in England and Wales.

DCA Minister Bridget Prentice said:

“We have listened and are responding to the calls for a more co-ordinated approach to public legal education by the Legal Action Group, Advice Services Alliance and the Citizenship Foundation.”

Over the next twelve months the Task Force, a body comprising of government, academic and independent representatives, will join forces to develop and promote the case for a national strategy for public legal education. This will aim to:

- Increase people's awareness of their rights and responsibilities;

- Develop the knowledge and skills that people need to deal with the legal problems they may encounter in the course of their lives;

- Make the case for the provision of information and education an integral part of the work on advice and legal services.

“The Citizenship Foundation strongly supports the proposed Task Force. Everyone is entitled to understand and engage with their rights and responsibilities - in clear language, interesting and accessible forms, and in unbiased terms. For the first time there is a real opportunity to work out how to embed this entitlement as part of our culture. We look forward to playing our part in the creation of a coherent and effective Public Legal Education Strategy." Dan Mace, Deputy Chairman of the Citizenship Foundation.

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