Authors:Ros Bragg
Last updated:2023-09-18
A new strategy for LAG
Marc Bloomfield
Description: LAG 50 Years
The past month has been an extraordinary time in government, filled with policy U-turns, financial backflips and swift departures. The economic conditions are worrying, with the rapidly increasing cost of living outstripping any growth in wages and benefits. As always, it is those on low incomes who are most vulnerable to economic shocks and to ‘cost savings’ in public services. There is little doubt that the pressures on the access to justice community will intensify in coming months.
It has been an interesting time to think through the priorities for LAG, resolving our strategy for the next three years and beyond. What role should we be playing in a sector operating in the aftermath of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) and long-term underfunding of the justice system? How do we respond to the cost of living crisis?
In LAG’s early years, advocacy for a strong and vibrant sector was a key element of the organisation’s work. In our new strategy, we have decided to return to these roots and to play a more active role in the debates which shape our sector. There are many powerful voices calling for change and LAG is keen to add its voice, once again, to this debate.
We have agreed that our first objective is to be an authoritative and influential voice advocating for access to justice. In the short term, LAG will amplify the voices of advocates, supporting our networks of practitioners and campaigners in their calls for action. We will explore new ways of working together, building coalitions of those with lived experience and lawyers and advisers working in the field. In the longer term, we aim to increase our capacity to undertake policy and research and make a contribution to the evidence base for change.
LAG has a long-standing and well-deserved reputation for delivering high-quality books and conferences in key areas of the law. We will continue to deliver these under our new strategy. We know that our commissioning processes have historically been opaque. Under our new strategy, we will move towards a more transparent and participatory process, engaging our communities in determining our priorities. An editorial board, drawn from our networks, will guide the development of our publications programme.
We have decided to expand the range and type of resources that we produce, rather than limiting ourselves to the traditional LAG book. Following LASPO, advice workers and community activists are playing an increasing role both in delivering access to justice and in the myriad of campaigns to strengthen the rights of low-income and marginalised groups. There is much that we can do to share knowledge with these workers and activists by delivering our high-quality information in an accessible format and by reshaping training courses to meet their needs.
We will also implement a long overdue digital strategy, refreshing our antiquated website and shifting many of our resources into electronic form, as well as improving the usability of existing online resources.
Our strategy is ambitious for such a small organisation. We will need to build organisational capacity to deliver on our objectives. We also need to update our sadly-neglected infrastructure, sorting out finances, marketing, HR and governance.
What the strategy means in practice is that LAG will be more visible in the campaigns and debates that affect our sector. We will seek to influence decision-making in Westminster and will also be working at national and regional levels. We are, for example, involved in moves to address the ‘advice desert’ in north Wales. Sue James, our CEO, attended the recent Legal Wales Conference and sits on the steering group for the proposed North Wales Law Centre.
We will also be more actively working with the community groups campaigning for change. LAG’s recent Education Law Conference, sponsored by Garden Court Chambers, was our first foray into law and education. Alongside legal experts, we profiled We Belong, a self-organised campaign group of students excluded from university education by hostile environment policies.
As the upheavals within government continue, there will be new opportunities to influence decision-makers to make the changes that are so sorely needed. Perhaps the author of the LAG book, European Human Rights Law, will make time for a chat.