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Lib Dems win Legal Aid plea

March 17, 2013 7:15 PM

Stockton and Middlesbrough Lib Dems secure change in Lib Dem policy on Justice in Social Security Tribunals

The Liberal Democrats Spring Conference unanimously supported a motion from Stockton and Middlesbrough local parties calling for adjustments to be made to legal aid criteria where social security appeals go to tribunals.

Moved by Suzanne Fletcher (Stockton Lib Dems), conference called for Social Security Tribunals to stay free at the point of use and not incur fees for users. That provision of welfare rights advice be kept under review, and that measures should be taken to additionally strengthen the capacity of advice services especially in periods of substantial change to the welfare system.

Suzanne, a volunteer advice worker at Stockton CAB, was delighted and said ' What we need to see now is action on the ground to support Citizens Advice Bureaus who are having to respond to a massive increase in demand as welfare changes roll out.'

Lib Dems also demanded that every effort be made to ensure that welfare benefit decisions are 'right first time' so reducing the demand on the tribunal system and that Ministers should report on what positive steps are being taken to improve the quality of decision making by the Department of Work and Pensions and its contractors and agencies.

It is worth noting the opening lines of this motion: they are a reminder of the principles on which we stand:

" Conference confirms the commitment of Liberal Democrats to a society where justice is available for all, regardless of circumstance; where people are able to redress injustice; and to take part in decision Justice in Social Security Tribunals speechs which affect their lives."