Grainne McKeever (Ulster)

Access to Justice Through Better Decision-Making

The process of welfare reform highlights the pressures on government agencies to deal with an increased number of claims, which has inevitably led to an increased number of individuals disputing the decisions made on their claims. A similar pattern is evident for other government agencies, including those responsible for making decisions on special educational needs provision, through to those with responsibility for helping individuals resolve their employment disputes. This seminar will review the empirical research evidence which highlights the barriers that individuals face in disputing administrative decisions made by government agencies, the role of advice in helping users overcome these barriers and the access to justice issues that arise from this. In light of this, the seminar will examine the steps that initial decision makers and government departments can take, individually and systematically, to improve access to justice, from the focus on improving the quality of initial decisions, to developing mechanisms to support individuals throughout the dispute resolution process.