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Is early intervention timely?

  • Health Justice Austtralia


Better to have a fence at the top of the cliff than a fleet of ambulances at the bottom'. Such is the call to early intervention: preventing legal problems from forming and escalating, rather than mopping up once the crisis has struck. The idea of early intervention has strong appeal: providing less intensive assistance early, before problems become more difficult and costly to resolve. But in the legal assistance sector, what and to whom does 'early intervention' deliver? The impact of 'early intervention' is based on two assumptions: (1) that priority clients groups are reached and assisted 'early'; and (2) that the assistance provided will make a beneficial difference. This paper explores these assumptions in the context of the evidence-based priority given to assisting the most disadvantaged, and the need to do so within the scope and limited resources of the legal assistance sector. The Reshaping legal assistance services discussion paper draws on a substantial base of empirical research – together with current experience of service providers – to inform the design and delivery of efficient and effective legal assistance services (e.g. legal aid, Aboriginal legal services, family violence prevention legal services, community legal centres and pro bono services). It provides a framework for discussion around how Australian access to justice research, policy and legal assistance services can best build upon this substantial evidence base. Reshaping legal assistance services explores the notions of targeted, joined-up, timely and appropriate service delivery. It exposes the conceptual and operational tensions in delivering such services, while providing guidance to and illustrations of practice, detailing facilitators and obstacles to change and presenting a range of approaches to evaluation. Acknowledging current arrangements and resources, it provides a basis for considering how to move from the theory to the practice of client-centred service delivery. 2
Justice Issues
Paper 20 June 2015 ISSN 1834-7266
Is early intervention timely?
Suzie Forell
Abstract: ‘Better to have a fence at the top of the cliff than a eet of ambulances at the bottom’. Such is the
call to early intervention: preventing legal problems from forming and escalating, rather than mopping up
once the crisis has struck. The idea of early intervention has strong appeal: providing less intensive assistance
early, before problems become more difcult and costly to resolve. But in the legal assistance sector, what and
to whom does ‘early intervention’ deliver? The impact of ‘early intervention’ is based on two assumptions:
(1) that priority clients groups are reached and assisted ‘early’; and (2) that the assistance provided will make
a benecial difference.
This paper explores these assumptions in the context of the evidence-based priority given to assisting the most
disadvantaged, and the need to do so within the scope and limited resources of the legal assistance sector.
This paper is drawn from Reshaping legal assistance services: building on the evidence base: a
discussion paper by Pascoe Pleasence, Christine Coumarelos, Suzie Forell, & Hugh M. McDonald (Law and
Justice Foundation of NSW 2014).$le/Reshaping_legal_assistance_services_web.pdf
About Reshaping legal assistance services
The Reshaping legal assistance services discussion paper draws on a substantial base of empirical research
– together with current experience of service providers – to inform the design and delivery of efcient and
effective legal assistance services (e.g. legal aid, Aboriginal legal services, family violence prevention legal
services, community legal centres and pro bono services).
It provides a framework for discussion around how Australian access to justice research, policy and legal
assistance services can best build upon this substantial evidence base.
Reshaping legal assistance services explores the notions of targeted, joined-up, timely and appropriate
service delivery. It exposes the conceptual and operational tensions in delivering such services, while
providing guidance to and illustrations of practice, detailing facilitators and obstacles to change and
presenting a range of approaches to evaluation. Acknowledging current arrangements and resources, it
provides a basis for considering how to move from the theory to the practice of client-centred service delivery.
The concepts of ‘prevention’ and ‘early intervention’
have become increasingly common in Australian
policy and strategy documents, shaping the delivery
of legal assistance services.1
The 2010 National Partnership Agreement on Legal
Assistance Services (NPALAS), which provided
federal government funding for civil and family
law assistance, specied as a desired outcome a
‘30% increase in early intervention services’. In
this agreement, early intervention services were
dened as:
… legal services provided by legal aid commissions
to assist people to resolve their problem before
it escalates [including] legal advice, minor
assistance and advocacy other than advocacy
provided under a grant of legal assistance (p. 3).
Preventative’ legal services were dened as:
… legal services provided by legal aid commissions
that inform and build individual and community
resilience through community legal education,
legal information and referral (p. 4).
Early intervention has also featured heavily in
access to justice policy discussion in Canada, where
strategies have been proposed to ‘help most people
in the most efcient, effective and just way at the
earliest point in the process’ (Canadian National
Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and
Family Matters, 2013, p. 11).
Figure 1 illustrates the place of early resolution
strategies relative to (a) the formal justice system
and (b) the volume of legal problems experienced.
It describes strategies commonly implemented
as prevention or early intervention in the legal
assistance sector, indicating they are services
that are provided early in the progress of a legal
issue, ideally prior to the formal legal processes.
These strategies also tend to be less intensive
(e.g. information and education) but widely available
at the earliest stages, in order to ‘catch’ potential
problems in the net as they are forming.2 In Canada,
these strategies are collectively called the ‘Early
Resolution Services Sector.’
1 See Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Access to Justice
Taskforce 2009, Strategic Framework for Access to Justice
in the Federal Civil Justice System, p. 63; p. 144. Subsequent
documents include the Community Legal Services Program
Guidelines (Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department,
Social Inclusion Division 2010); National Partnership
Agreement on Legal Assistance Services (COAG 2010), the
National Legal Aid Strategic Plan 2014–2016 (National Legal
Aid 2014), The Review of the National Partnership Agreement
on Legal Assistance Services (Allen Consulting Group 2014),
Access to Justice Arrangements (Productivity Commission
2014) .
2 This interpretation of early intervention as early
but often broad-based and less intensive assistance
fundamentally differs from its antecedent concept, where,
in child development, early intervention tends to describe
targeted intensive assistance for specic children in need
(e.g. Valentine & Katz, 2007).
This paper examines:
the promise of early intervention (including
prevention) as a policy framework for legal
assistance services
who legal assistance services aim to assist
notions of ‘early’: in processes, problems and lives
the nature of early ‘interventions’
the interface of legal with non-legal services in
early intervention
early intervention as cost effective justice.
The promise of ‘early
A central rationale for ‘early intervention’ is that
earlier assistance may reduce the need for more
intensive and expensive intervention later on. It is
understood that, as a legal matter progresses, it
can become more complicated, trigger further legal
problems and require more intensive assistance
to resolve:
An unresolved legal problem can trigger further
legal problems, resulting in the experience of
multiple simultaneous or sequential problems. Thus,
early intervention strategies could be used to resolve
legal problems before they reach crisis point, by
minimising escalation, preventing ow-on effects
and reducing the need for expensive court resolution
(Coumarelos, Macourt, People, McDonald, Wei,
Iriana & Ramsey 2012, p. 13; see also Canadian
National Action Committee on Access to Justice in
Civil and Family Law 2013, p. 9).
Another appeal of early intervention is the
opportunity to broaden the reach of legal assistance
services beyond ‘the most essential legal needs of
the most vulnerable populations’ (Canadian Bar
Association 2013a, p. 2) and ‘to nd solutions that
will best alleviate the unmet legal needs of the most
people possible’. (Canadian Bar Association 2013a,
p. 7; see also Trebilcock, Duggan & Sossin 2012,
Middle Income Access to Civil Justice Steering
Committee 2011). In Canada, this approach responds
to a concern that:
Cuts to public funding for legal aid have resulted
in continually decreasing nancial eligibility levels
and increasingly limited services offered by legal
aid plans, so even many low income and people
living in poverty are now ineligible for the services
they need (Canadian Bar Association 2013a, p. 2;
see also Centre for Innovative Justice 2013).
The rollout of early intervention services in Australia
and overseas is seen as important, in part because:
They help to bridge the gap between no assistance
and full representation and allow legal aid
programs to assist a greater number of people
facing a greater variety of legal problems (Buckley
2010, p. 77).
Thus, the appeal of early intervention is twofold.
First and foremost it offers hope that matters will be
resolved before escalating through the legal system.
Second, less intensive but more widely available early
intervention strategies are anticipated to provide cost
effective justice options for a greater range of clients
and issues.
Who do legal assistance services
aim to assist?
Before discussing whether ‘early intervention’ can
deliver more cost effective justice, it is important to
clarify who legal assistance services seek to serve and
how services aim to assist them.
More than a decade of legal needs research has
established a clear inequality in the experience of
legal problems, with some groups more exposed to
legal problems and/or less able to avoid or mitigate
problems (Pleasence et al. 2014). As further observed
by Pleasence et al. (2014, p. 5):
This inequality of experience links to ‘social
disadvantage’, with legal problems having been
described as often existing “at the intersection of [law]
and everyday adversity” (Sandefur 2007, p. 113).
The extent of inequity in the experience of legal
problems is encapsulated in the nding from the
Legal Australia-Wide Survey (LAW Survey) that
just 9% of survey respondents accounted for 65%
of reported legal problems.3 The evidence further
3 The LAW Survey (Coumarelos et al. 2012) provides a
comprehensive quantitative assessment across Australia of an
extensive range of legal needs on a representative sample of
the population (20,716 respondents). It examines the nature
of legal problems, the pathways to their resolution, and the
demographic groups that struggle with the weight of their legal
indicates that those most vulnerable to legal problems
tend to have less of the knowledge, self-help skills,
motivation and resources required to deal with legal
problems without assistance, and may face additional
barriers associated with geography (remote areas)
and the availability of accessible, low cost services.
Together, these factors lead to unresolved legal
issues that contribute to ongoing and persistent
disadvantage (Pleasence et al, 2014).
LAW Survey ndings, previous legal needs surveys
and other access to justice research have strongly
inuenced the prioritisation of disadvantaged people
for legal assistance services. One objective of the
NPALAS is, for instance, to develop:
A national system of legal assistance that is
integrated, efcient and cost-effective, and
focused on providing services for disadvantaged
Australians in accordance with access to justice
principles of accessibility, appropriateness, equity,
efciency and effectiveness. (COAG, 2010 p. 4)
Recent national reviews of the NPALAS, and of access
to justice arrangements more broadly, reiterate that
the people who are most disadvantaged are priority
clients for legal assistance services (Productivity
Commission 2014; Allen Consulting Group 2014, p. 8).
Early intervention and disadvantage
Central to the promise of early intervention is the
notion that early assistance will prevent the escalation
of issues and in doing so will reduce dependence on
more formal justice mechanisms. To achieve this,
early intervention strategies need to reach clients
‘early’ and provide assistance that makes a difference
to those clients.
However, noting the reality of high legal need
among the most disadvantaged, and the resulting
prioritisation of public legal assistance to this group,
Volume of problems,
needs of population that
are handled by the sectors
of the overall justice
building legal
triage and
and summary
advice; triage
and referral
advocacy for
Representation Trial
Formal Justice
Early Resolution
Services Sector
Source: Canadian National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters 2013, p. 11.
it is against their needs and capabilities that the
potential for early intervention legal assistance
strategies should be considered.
For this reason, we now explore who early
intervention legal assistance strategies best
reach and when. We then examine how early
intervention legal assistance might meet the
needs of disadvantaged client groups.
Who do early strategies best reach?
One assumption underpinning many early
intervention strategies is that if people are informed
that their problems are legal problems and are
signposted to legal help, assistance can be provided
early. For some people this may well hold true and
their needs are addressed by early intervention
However, a substantial evidence base indicates
the complex range of reasons why many people,
particularly disadvantaged people, do not necessarily
seek assistance for their legal problems in a timely
way. These reasons include feelings of hopelessness
and despair, fear, shame, denial, gratitude and
frustrated resignation; believing they have
insufcient power; not recognising or believing
the law can work in their interests; or having other
immediate priorities which take precedence over
legal issues (e.g. Genn 1999; Forell, McCarron &
Schetzer 2005; Pleasence 2006; Sandefur 2007;
Balmer et al. 2010; Allison, Cuneen, Schwartz &
Behrendt 2012; Pleasence et al. 2014).
New analyses from the LAW Survey have further
explored reasons provided by respondents for
taking no action about legal issues they identify,
including the reason that they ‘didn’t know what
to do’. McDonald and People (2014) observe
that not knowing what to do was rarely reported
as the only reason for inaction.4 They noted,
following an analysis of differences by demographic
characteristics, that ‘particular types of people are
more likely to be constrained from taking action’.
In further analysis, McDonald, Forell and People
(2014) identied that ‘not knowing what to do’ most
commonly occurred as one of ve or more reasons
for inaction, and that it formed part of a cluster
of reasons associated with ‘constrained inaction’
(Balmer et al. 2010). Other reasons in this cluster
included that taking action was too stressful, it cost
too much, it would take too long and that they had
other, bigger problems to deal with.
4 The analysis focused on only three of the full list of reasons
provided for not taking action: ‘didn’t know what to do’, ‘it
would be too stressful’ and because ‘it would cost too much’.
The data indicates that of those who gave any of the above
three reasons for taking no action, only 7.6% gave ‘didn’t know
what to do’ as their only reason for inaction. McDonald, HM,
Forell, S & People, J 2014, Limits of legal information
strategies: when knowing what to do is not enough, Updating
justice, no. 44, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney.
Importantly, some of these barriers go beyond the
legal domain – and beyond what can be reasonably
expected of legal sector strategies that are used to
encourage people to seek assistance. For instance,
it is beyond the scope of the legal sector to deal with
the complexity of day-to day-issues (e.g. looking
after children, meeting Centrelink requirements,
meeting bail requirements or underlying mental
health issues) that may be preventing someone from
addressing their ne debt issue.
One impact of this range of factors is that, as Forell
et al. (2005, p. 136) observed of homeless people,
‘when … people nally do contact a legal service
(if at all), the issue has usually already reached crisis
point: the eviction is imminent; their benets have
been cut off; the court case is tomorrow’.5
Across a range of service sectors, research and
practitioner experience has identied that
help-seeking behaviour is often prompted by crisis
(Evans & Delfabbro 2005; Hall & Partners, Open
Mind, 2012; Coumarelos et al. 2012, p. 30). Of
note, the ‘tipping point’ for seeking help is later for
some groups than for others and disadvantaged
people are over-represented among those who delay
help-seeking. This was reinforced by practitioners
in Pleasence et al. (2014), particularly by frontline
workers supporting clients with complex needs:
… we do get a lot of clientele come in in crisis mode
(Aboriginal services worker, rural area).
… when the proverbial hits the fan you come in ...
(rural community service provider).
In these consultations, a number of providers also
noted that clients commonly come to the attention
of legal services with multiple legal issues. One
provider likened seeking legal help to seeking help
from a doctor: people may wait until they have
several problems to report, or until one problem
becomes too painful to bear, before they nally
seek help.
Practitioners further suggested that it is not only
an issue of when people seek help, but when people
are ready to act on the issue. As noted by a nancial
counsellor in Pleasence et al. (2014):
… we do get them at crisis point. It does mean
we can talk to them at a very strong point in
terms of getting action because there is a crisis.
So the beauty of a crisis is the client is likely to do
something …
A public legal service lawyer described this as
‘timely crisis management’.
Early assistance may therefore be less effective for
some people, because they are not ready to address
5 The Legal Services Board (UK) also notes research indicating
that “legal services are commonly accessed at times of stress
or trouble”. See
problems at that point in time.6 There is a risk that
if assistance is offered before the client is ready for
assistance, it may not be taken, used to full advantage
or have the impact expected.
For this reason, service delivery focused on early
intervention – service provision before the crisis
hits – risks missing those clients who simply do
not come in early (Forell & Cain, 2012) or who are
not ready for help. Featured among these clients
are social and economically disadvantaged people.
Further, when a problem has reached crisis point,
it is generally more complex, requiring assistance
that may go beyond assistance commonly offered as
‘early intervention’.
Important also, among disadvantaged people legal
problems do not exist in isolation, but are often
closely interwoven with other legal (Pleasence 2006;
Currie 2007; Coumarelos et al. 2012) and non-legal
issues (Forell et al. 2005; Karras et al. 2006). In this
context, ‘early’ cannot necessarily be understood in
terms of a single presenting legal issue. Rather for
these clients, the timing of assistance may need to
account for a complex set of considerations such as
health issues (including mental wellbeing), other
legal processes (e.g. criminal and family law), other
priority issues such as personal and family safety, and
the motivation of the individual to address the issue.
Many of these issues transcend the presenting legal
issue, and extend beyond the domain of legal services.
Timing must take into account factors beyond the
presenting legal issue that may affect a person’s
readiness and capability to act.
This raises the question: what is meant by ‘early’ in
the provision of legal assistance services?
When is early?
Early intervention is commonly conceptualised as
the stage in the legal process, before formal court
processes commence (COAG, 2010). One example is
legal advice provided after the issue of a default notice
but prior to the receipt of a statement of claim in a
mortgage hardship situation (Forell & Cain 2011).7
However, the progress of some legal issues is not so
linear, with clearly dened early and late periods.
In family law, there are dened steps leading to
separation and divorce, but within these processes,
additional legal issues (such as those regarding child
6 Similar notions are described in relation health behaviour
management as a model of ‘stages of change’ or ‘readiness
to change’ (e.g. Prochaska, DiClemente & Norcross 1992,
DiClemente & Prochaska 1998).
7 In an evaluation of a program which aimed, during the global
nancial crisis to provide early assistance to people at risk of
losing their homes, six ‘stages of enforcement’ were identied
(no default notice, default notice, statement of claim, notice
to vacate, post-repossession, post-sale of home). ‘Early’ was
dened as the period prior to the issue of a statement of claim.
‘Late’ was after this point.
residence and access) may cause processes to start,
stop, falter and re-emerge at any point. As observed
of the Legal Aid NSW Early Intervention Unit (EIU)
duty lawyer service at the Family Law Courts in NSW:
Some clients were assisted as their family law
problems were emerging, particularly those who
went to the Family Law Courts as a rst port of
call ... Other clients were assisted as they sought to
commence new legal processes. Equally, however,
EIU duty lawyers provided assistance to clients
whose family law problems had been ongoing, and
may have been so for years. They assisted clients
who were well advanced in the legal process, but
needed assistance to progress or nalise their
matters. In some cases, family law processes had
been nalised, only for old issues to re-emerge or
new ones arise (Forell & Cain 2012, pp. 34-35).
Equally, some problems are sudden and cannot
necessarily be anticipated, particularly by the
parties involved (e.g. breach of family court order,
retrenchment, arrest, crime victimisation) leaving
‘late’ intervention (in terms of the legal process)
as the earliest possible – and potentially the most
efcient and effective – intervention available:
For a contravention application to be brought
means that there’s been proceedings, there’s been
orders, but I don’t think you’d nd it hard to
argue that [when a] client comes in having been
served – so they’ve responded in the contravention
application – they’ve been served with it and
they come and see us the next day. That’s early.
(Solicitor quoted in Forell & Cain 2012, pp. 34–35).
The point is that the value and impact of an
intervention is not necessarily linked to its timing in
the legal process. As a duty lawyer in the evaluation
of the Legal Aid NSW Family Law EIU Duty Lawyer
Scheme observed:
I still see us as early intervention, even when we
come in at a really late stage, because for that client
it’s the earliest intervention that they’ve had (Forell
& Cain 2012, p.34).
Indeed, a more inclusive framework may better
take this approach – and focus on the timeliness of
assistance relative to experience of the client rather
than dening the effectiveness of service delivery
(as is the case in the NPALAS) in terms of what may
be an arbitrary point in a legal process. While a focus
on timeliness may well involve intervening ‘early’
in problems or processes where this is possible and
appropriate, it may also take account of:
how legal issues are experienced by the client
(including when timing must take account of
complex needs, beyond the presenting legal issue)
how help is sought (the common experience of
crisis driven help seeking, particularly among that
core group of priority clients).
‘Early’ intervention in the legal assistance sector can
also be understood as assistance provided before
a problem enters the legal domain. Advice about
separation and divorce to people who are unhappy in
their relationship or experiencing domestic violence
is one example.
Here ‘early’ refers to a stage within a social process,
with the ‘intervention’ timed at a point where
the issue could escalate into the legal domain.8
Intervention at this point may steer people towards
alternative sectors (e.g. counselling, nancial
counselling, housing) or to early resolution options
(such as mediation, negotiation) or, where necessary,
direct them further into the system (self-help with
divorce, legal assistance). However, among very
disadvantaged people, problems may have long and
complex histories, and unpredictable futures. This
can make it difcult to identify when problems are at
the ‘early’ stage and to disentangle legal issues from
other issues. Intervening before an issue becomes a
legal problem also carries the risk that legal services
stretch beyond their scope and into the terrain of
other sectors.
Looking beyond the legal assistance sector, ‘early
intervention’ has yet a broader interpretation, where
it refers to intervention early in a life course to
reduce the severity of impact of existing problems,
and to protect other problems from occurring (Sharp
& Filmer-Sankey 2010). In the child development
eld, it commonly takes the form of targeted
and intensive assistance provided to vulnerable
individuals (e.g. children with disability) as early
as possible following diagnosis or identication
(e.g. McLachlan, Gilllan & Gordon 2013, p. 105;
Oono, Honey & McConachie 2013).
Developmental crime prevention strategies also aim
to intervene early in the lives of ‘at risk’ children
to prevent later offending. Such strategies focus
on ‘transition’ points in children’s lives e.g. early
childhood, moves to pre-school, primary school
and high school (National Crime Prevention 1999,
Homel et al. 2006; Manning, Homel & Smith 2006).
Manning et al. state:
Rather than a xed ‘trajectory’, an individual
faces a series of life-phases or transition points.
Transition points mark a time when things often
go wrong, but they are also the times when
interventions are most effective, particularly
for children and families from disadvantaged
backgrounds (2006, p. 4).
This resonates with a range of legal needs and access
to justice research ndings.
First, the statement parallels LAW Survey ndings
that people are more vulnerable to different legal
issues at different stages in life. Younger people
8 Or escalate from one legal domain to another. As one public
legal assistance lawyer noted in consultations for Pleasence
et al. (2014): “…civil law is the basis of criminal law because
basically if you’ve got no money, you’ve got nowhere to live,
you tend to do silly things to survive”.
experience more problems related to criminal
activity, accidents, personal injury and rented
housing, while people in their late 20s and 30s
experience more credit and debt issues related to
owning or renting houses. Family-related legal issues
peak in the 35–44 year age group, while, as might
be expected, issues with wills and estates tended to
peak at the 45–64 year age group (Coumarelos et al.
2012 pp. 168–173).
Second, it reects ndings that legal problems
commonly co-occur or ‘cluster’ (Coumarelos, 2006;
Currie, 2007; Pleasence, Balmer, Buck, O’Grady
& Genn 2004, Pleasence 2006) and how some
problems may ‘trigger’ others (Currie 2007; Genn
1999; Pleasence 2006). In summarising previous
research, Coumarelos et al. (2012, p. 14) observed:
‘Although results across studies are not identical,
relationship, injury and employment problems tend
to emerge as likely trigger problems’.
Manning et al.’s statement also reects observations
made in qualitative legal needs studies about legal
issues arising at key transition points in people’s
lives such as family breakdown (Forell et al. 2005,
pp. 65–74), sudden incarceration (Grunseit et al.
2008) and sudden illness or disability (Karras et al.
2006 re mental illness). Broadly echoing the theme,
McLachlan, Gilllan and Gordon (2013, p. 21)
stated that:
Events such as relationship and family
breakdowns or the death of a partner can also
trigger disadvantage (conversely, the formation
of a relationship can be a pathway out of
disadvantage). This is particularly the case when
a key source of income is lost. Relationship and
family breakdowns are the leading trigger for
the rst instance of homelessness. Young people
seeking assistance from specialist homelessness
services commonly cite family breakdown and
family violence as reasons for seeking help.
Legal service practices which aim to reach and assist
disadvantaged clients at critical times recognise
that transition points often trigger legal need.
Examples include:
Legal and other assistance services provided onsite
to people following natural disasters (Victoria
Legal Aid 2010)
Legal Aid NSW Family Law Early Intervention
Unit’s family law outreach to local courts on
Apprehended Violence Order list days, and
expanded duty service in the Family Law Courts
(Forell & Cain 2012).
Medical-Legal or Health-Justice partnerships,
which link legal assistance to frontline health
services (Noble 2012; Rodabaugh 2010; Lawton
& Sandel 2014).
The idea of ‘transition’ points during a person’s
life, or even in the life of a problem, adds another
dimension to the discussion on ‘timeliness’ of legal
assistance. Such approaches allow for:
responsive and timely assistance at the time and
in a place it is useful and ready to be used
account to be taken of other legal issues likely to
cluster with or follow the crisis.
Some of the sites of crisis or change may lie outside
the legal sector, such as homelessness services
and hospitals or other health services, pointing
to the value of outreach or linked services (Forell,
McDonald et al. 2013; Noble 2012).
Equally however, a court or tribunal hearing
may itself indicate a time of ‘transition’ for
people facing criminal proceedings, family law
matters, tenancy or employment issues, to name
a few. As such, courts and tribunals can also be
sites for ‘just in time’ assistance matched to the
immediate needs of the client (Owen, Staudt &
Pedwell 2002, pp. 127–129). Urban legal service
providers interviewed in Pleasence et al. (2014)
described what they saw as the benet of timely
and responsive assistance, in the form of a
tribunal-based duty lawyer scheme:
… in terms of bang for your buck advice, to be
able to see a lawyer before your hearing at NCAT
[NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal] and for
the lawyer to be able to assist you in articulating
exactly what your legal need is, giving you advice
on what documents you need to support that and
in some cases telling you well actually you don’t
have a claim at all. We think that’s really targeted
advice, and timely. (Urban legal service provider)
What assistance is provided
as early intervention?
Having considered the notion of ‘early’ we turn to the
idea of ‘intervention’, and in particular, the question
of what types of intervention may be necessary to
prevent the escalation of issues, particularly for the
most disadvantaged people who are a priority for
legal assistance services.
Susskind (2010, p. 231) used the analogy of an
‘early intervention’ fence at the top of a cliff being
preferable to an ambulance at the bottom. For early
intervention to be viable as a policy objective in legal
service delivery, the services offered early need not
only to ‘catch’ legal issues as they are forming (fences
on the appropriate cliffs), but also be appropriate to
the task of preventing the escalation of the problem
(high enough fences).
Types of services offered as ‘early
intervention’ services
Early intervention strategies in the legal assistance
sector are usually less intensive, short intervention
services, which provide partial assistance (advice,
information and education), but rely on clients
managing the problem (see COAG, 2010 p. 34; Forell
& Cain 2011, p. 6).
With a focus on service delivery community-wide,
this may be both necessary and sensible. It may be
necessary because the ‘fence’ (as conceptualised by
Susskind) needs to stretch far enough to prevent
yet to be identied clients from falling off the cliff.
It may be sensible, because for a proportion of the
population ‘the fence’ is sufcient to prevent the fall.
Providing assistance which is appropriate and
intensive enough to resolve issues, particularly for
’priority clients’ who have a greater number of issues
and more complex issues, but lower personal and
legal capability is more of a challenge:
One of the most serious concerns is that self-help
services, even if facilitated, are inappropriate for
individuals who face one or more barriers to access
to justice. These clients may include: low–income
individuals, clients who have experienced systemic
discrimination; victims of trauma; clients with
literacy or language issues; clients with physical,
developmental or mental health disabilities; and
individuals suffering from isolation (University of
Toronto 2011, p. 32).9
Services also need to be accessible to disadvantaged
clients and culturally appropriate. For instance,
Ralph (2011) noted the reported underutilisation by
Indigenous people of early dispute resolution services
in family law (such as Family Relationship Centres).
He suggests as one explanation that ‘such services are
not accessible or culturally appropriate in responding
to the needs of Aboriginal people’, many lacking
Indigenous staff, and in particular, Indigenous
dispute resolution practitioners (p. 51; see also
NADRAC, 2006).10
In an examination of an expanded duty lawyer service
in the family law courts in NSW, Forell and Cain
(2012, p. 35) note:
These are clients who may require more intensive
support than information or advice only – at
whatever point they are up to. If early intervention
services focus on providing less intensive services
early, is there a risk that these services will not
be enough to prevent the escalation of issues for
disadvantaged clients and later services will also
be required by this target group.
9 See Chapter 6 of Pleasence et al (2014) for literature on the
appropriateness of unbundled legal services for clients with
lower personal and legal capability.
10 The challenges to, but central importance of, building trusting
relationships between legal services and culturally diverse
communities – particularly for communities where trust
of government, services or authority may be low – was a
consistent theme in our consultations. An Aboriginal service
provider further noted that, for Indigenous communities
“it’s all very well to talk about being culturally appropriate but
you’ve got to be culturally appropriate for that actual location
and that’s why the local eld ofcer [is] best often recruited
from the community in which you’re going to serve …”
Importantly, if the assistance provided cannot, for
whatever reason, resolve the issue, it becomes not a
replacement for later assistance, but additional to it.
For example, because Indigenous people often fail
to access family dispute resolution services, many
require access to assistance through the family law
courts to resolve complex family law disputes.
The question of just what types of help are necessary
to prevent the escalation of legal issues is complex.
To return to Susskind’s analogy, how high and wide
does the fence need to be, and how much of a fence
is within budget? Does the low fence we can actually
afford (to make it stretch further) risk making little
difference to those who would not fall in any case,
but not be high enough to stop those heading blindly
for the cliff?
At an individual level, the assistance required to
prevent the proverbial fall will be both issue specic
(type and urgency) and client specic (relating to
personal and legal capability). So, while services
offered through websites, telephone hotlines and
self-help kits may suit some clients with certain
problems, these service types may not match the
needs and/or capabilities of others, typically people
that are most disadvantaged. Simply put, they may
not provide enough of a fence to prevent the need
for the ambulance.
Also relevant to this discussion is how different
strategies can most effectively ‘dovetail’ to best
meet client needs. For instance, in consultations for
Pleasence et al. 2014, workers noted that for some
people, information about where to get help will
have little impact without reassurance that taking
action can actually make a difference. Similarly,
non-legal caseworkers cited the value of legal
advice being made available to their clients at or
following community legal education (CLE) sessions.
Legal services further noted the value of CLE to
caseworkers on problem identication and referral
pathways, when provided in support of a regular
outreach service.11 Outreach services with direct
links to casework where this additional assistance
is required will again help match assistance to the
needs and capabilities of the client.
It is also important to recognise that the types of
assistance required and the options for resolution
may not be exclusively legal. However, personalised
legal assistance maybe required to ‘rule the law out’
as the path to resolution. For instance, in a duty
lawyers program in the family law courts, solicitors
reported that:
Sometimes clients think that coming to court is
the best way. But really, what they need perhaps
11 In a recent review of Legal Aid NSW outreach legal services,
an outreach solicitor noted that “CLE is just absolutely vital
as a way of promoting the clinics … [to] … build the prole,
develop a little bit of enthusiasm, little bit of buzz in the
community.” (Forell, McDonald, Ramsey & Williams, 2013,
p. 55)
is some therapeutic counselling, or they need
mediation or some other support services to
help them cope with the dynamics of whatever is
happening to them. (EIU duty lawyer 3) (Forell &
Cain 2012, p. 22).
As this example suggests, for some clients and some
issues, access to professional and personalised legal
advice and assistance (early or late) may in fact be
the most efcient and effective way to resolve an
issue and prevent escalation.
The place of legal services
in prevention and early
The legal system – particularly legal assistance
services, courts and other dispute resolution
bodies – provides infrastructure to help people
resolve disputes (e.g. Access to Justice Taskforce
2009; see also Schetzer & Henderson 2003). This
role is largely reactive, with the formal court process
a tool of last resort. It is at the ambulance end of the
spectrum for disputes that are not resolved.
But legal problems have their roots in everyday life:
in family, employment, housing, and consumer or
contractual relationships to name a few. Among
disadvantaged people in particular, other issues,
such as mental health, disability, low or a sudden
loss of income or coalescing needs may be relevant
to these disputes. As has been observed:
The so-called “legal” problem of the poor is often
an unidentied strand in a complex mix of social,
economic, psychological, and psychiatric problems
(New York City Bar Association, Committee on
Professional Responsibility 2013, p. 4).
A central challenge for prevention and early
intervention strategies in a legal assistance
framework is that it is work ‘beyond the law’ that
may best prevent legal problems from occurring
or prevent problems from escalating. So, the most
effective way to assist a homeless person with a legal
problem may not be signposting to legal assistance,
but providing a place to live:
I am sick of turning up to places run down and
lthy dirty, sick from not eating, I just don’t have
the energy to do it. I want to help myself but I don’t
have the energy to help myself. I need somewhere
I can settle in for a week and put my affairs in
order (homeless respondent in Forell et al. 2005,
p. 115).
It is also the case that only a small proportion of
public expenditure is allocated to the legal assistance
sector, relative to the main human services
programs (such as health and welfare), which have
primary responsibility for a range of issues facing
disadvantaged people, and which may enter the legal
domain. The four main legal assistance providers
in Australia (Legal Aid Commissions in each state
and territory, Community Legal Centres, Aboriginal
Legal Services and Family Violence Prevention
Legal Services) received around $730 million in
government funding in 2012–13, for both criminal
and civil matters. This represented only around
0.14 per cent of total government spending in
Australia (Productivity Commission, 2014 p. 29).
By way of contrast, welfare services account for
22 per cent of expenditure, health 19 per cent and
education, 14 per cent of Australian governments’
combined expenditures (Daley, McGannon & Savage
2013, p. 13).
The scope of legal assistance services is constrained
both by funding and the need for legal services to
work within their mandate and their expertise.
So while legal assistance services may and do work
effectively as part of a holistic response to client
needs (Forell et al. 2013), it is beyond their remit and
capacity to themselves resolve clients’ issues beyond
the legal. This position underpins and supports
increasing interest in partnerships for joined-up
service delivery (see Pleasence et al. 2014, Chapter 4)
and is central to the practice of referral.
Systemic early intervention – the key role
of law reform and strategic litigation
Given the complex genesis of legal issues for the
most disadvantaged, the capacity of legal assistance
services to directly prevent problems from occurring
at the individual level may be limited. Involved in this
complexity are:
a set of ‘wicked social problems’ – experienced by
many individuals and groups identied as being
disadvantaged and socially excluded – [which]
are difcult to deal with because they have unclear
underlying structures or causes, or raise matters
involving competing priorities (Bridgman and
Davis, 2004: 43–44; Nheu & McDonald 2010, p. 14)
However, an important way that the legal assistance
sector may prevent escalating legal need for
disadvantaged people is through is systemic work:
strategic litigation (Curran 2013) and facilitating
law and policy reforms to prevent or alleviate legal
problems that particularly impact on disadvantaged
people (Warner 2014; Nheu & McDonald 2010).
With few areas of social, public or economic life not
now affected by some form of legislation (Gleeson
2008, p. 3), and the lives of the most disadvantaged
particularly regulated (Nheu & McDonald 2010;
Forell et al. 2005):
Systemic advocacy to reform laws, regulations
and institutions is often the only effective way to
eliminate recurring problems because they address
the root causes that give rise to repeated and often
routine legal issues (Buckley 2011 in Canadian Bar
Association 2013, p. 8).
Through their day-to-day work with disadvantaged
clients witnessing the legal issues which most impact
on their lives, legal assistance services are in a strong
position to take the lived experience of their clients
to the law reform process and to advocate for change
to improve the lives of not just one but many clients.
For example, reforms to nes enforcement and driver
licensing laws addressed hardship disproportionately
experienced by disadvantaged people (Pleasence et al.
2014, p. 117). Similar benets may be accrued through
strategic litigation and related education. Curran
(2013, p. 12) cites example of the Kleenmaid action
related to linked credit as work which ‘can create a
precedent to compensate other consumers, prevent
poor practices and inform other debtors’.
These examples point to the value of funding and
supporting strategic advocacy and law reform work by
frontline legal services that work with disadvantaged
clients. These services see the unintended impact
of the law on their own clients and can advocate for
change which can either prevent or address problems
experienced by a wider group of people.
Early intervention as a cost
effective justice option
The prospect of cost effective justice has been
a central driver to interest in early intervention
services. However, as we have shown, there are
several challenges to the assumptions underpinning
early intervention (in terms of less intensive
assistance early in a legal process) which challenge
the prospect of ‘cheaper’ justice.
The rst relates to who is best served by these early
intervention strategies. While early intervention
services may make legal assistance available to more
people – if they do not address the needs of the
most disadvantaged – they may not address more
legal need. This is because a higher proportion of
legal problems are experienced by a disadvantaged
few (the nine per cent of people account for 65 per
cent of legal problems (Coumarelos et al. 2012)
and it is these few who, if services are not targeted
and appropriate, may not be well served by early
intervention strategies.
Further, if early intervention strategies
systematically miss the 9 per cent of people who
have a disproportionate number of legal problems
and lower capabilities, this group may still need
assistance when the crisis hits. A consequence of
prevention and early intervention strategies missing
the people who are most disadvantaged (and thereby
a relatively high proportion of legal problems) is that
early intervention strategies must be considered as
an addition to more intensive assistance, rather than
a substitute.
Given limited resources, focusing on early
intervention strategies, which may in fact best serve
the broader population, may be at the cost of more
intensive service provision that better meets the
needs of the most disadvantaged.
While most of the innovative strategies have
proven benecial, they have had a tendency to
shift the energy and focus away from the need for
actual legal representation as part of the legal aid
spectrum (Buckley 2010, pp. 77–78).
Equally, if the assistance provided is not enough,
or if it is actually beyond the scope and capacity of
the legal assistance sector to prevent escalation,
the problems experienced by disadvantaged people
may continue to consume as much (and indeed
additional) resources.
Finally, at a wider level, public sector resource use
may increase if early intervention strategies are
successful at promoting awareness of legal rights
and remedies, in turn driving greater use of legal
services. This may become a concern if the primary
group for whom these strategies are effective are the
less disadvantaged and more capable – as, through
a process of net widening, it may further stretch
already limited resources (University of Toronto
2011, p. 32).
In developing strategies to address unmet legal
need, it is sensible to ask what types of ‘intervention’
make a difference and at what points are these
interventions most effective and cost effective.
However, such questions must be asked with a clear
and shared understanding of who services aim to
assist. The cascade of evidence on legal needs both in
Australia and overseas shows the value of addressing
the legal needs of the most disadvantaged. It is
among these groups that the experience of legal
need is highest and capability is lowest, leading to
unresolved legal issues that contribute to ongoing
and persistent disadvantage. As policy and practice
in Australia indicates that the needs of the most
disadvantaged are paramount, then service delivery
needs to be targeted to these people and designed
around their needs.
With a focus on the most disadvantaged, this
paper has questioned the assumption that early
intervention (in terms of lighter services earlier)
is a panacea for cheaper and better justice. If early
intervention services are not appropriate to those
with the most need, they become an adjunct to
rather than a replacement of crisis response services,
further stretching already limited resources.
To reach this view, we examined both the notions
of ‘early’ and of ‘intervention’. Early intervention
is commonly conceptualised in terms of the legal
process e.g. before court processes have commenced.
However, for disadvantaged clients in particular,
there is no single ‘early’, nor is there a clear cut off
point when the intervention is suddenly late. Due
to factors outside the law, the earliest and most
effective legal assistance that can be provided to
some clients may in fact be ‘late’ in a legal process.
For clients with complex needs, the timing of legal
assistance cannot be considered uni-dimensionally –
early or late in the progress of a single legal issue or
process – but relative to a range of other inuencing
Together, these observations suggest that a
framework which focuses on the timeliness of
services, relative to experiences of the client, may
better address the needs of the most disadvantaged.
A focus on the timeliness takes account of how
legal issues are experienced, and how and where
help is sought (recognising the common experience
of crisis-driven help seeking, particularly among
disadvantaged client groups). Thinking of early
intervention in terms of the client’s experience also
raises the further possibility of timeliness relative to
signicant ‘transition’ points in client’s life course,
or even the life of a problem. Transition points
offer opportunities for assistance when and where
it is ready to be used. Legal problems themselves
are often sites of transition (criminal conviction,
family breakdown, loss of employment to name a
few) where a legal crisis offers a chance to address
immediate and imminent related issues. This is an
area for further evaluation and research.
Turning to the ‘intervention’, effective services for
disadvantaged clients need to be appropriate to
those clients: catering for their particular legal needs
and their capabilities. In this context we noted the
value of targeting resources to those who most need
it, and then tailoring those services by client need
and capability, so the assistance provided has the
best chance of making a difference.
However, due to the range of factors which
contribute to the development of legal problems
for the most disadvantaged, prevention and
early intervention strategies risk stretching legal
services beyond their scope. As disadvantaged
clients of public legal services are often, and more
immediately, the clients of other services, it is
important to situate legal assistance in a broader
social context. Further, as clients’ needs may well
stretch beyond the tight remit and resources of the
legal sector, legal services need to be connected:
working as part of a broader service network in
order to (together) provide holistic, targeted,
client-centred responses. Models such as outreach
legal services (Forell, McDonald et al. 2014) and
more specically, health-justice partnerships take
this approach (e.g. Noble 2012). Frontline legal
services have a role in dening the boundaries of
legal assistance work in this complex space.
It may well be the case that assistance provided
early in the life of a problem can ‘nip it in the bud’
and prevent the escalating costs associated with
ongoing disputes. However, for those disadvantaged
clients with disproportionately high legal need but
lower capability to address that need, assistance
may be most effective if it is responsive to their
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PO Box A109 Sydney South NSW 1235, Australia
... Zij beschikken vaak over te weinig cognitieve bandbreedte, energie en tijd om hun probleem aan te pakken. Hulp wordt pas gezocht op een moment van crisis, wanneer men echt geen kant meer op kan (Forell, 2015). Dit geldt des te meer wanneer er sprake is van meerdere problemen die tegelijkertijd spelen. ...
... Deze mensen hebben nog steeds behoefte aan persoonlijke hulpverlening en aan intermediairs die hen helpen nieuwe technologie te gebruiken. Bovendien is online-informatie vaker generiek in plaats van toegespitst op de specifieke hulpvraag, en sluit hiermee minder goed aan bij de behoeften van kwetsbare burgers (Forell, 2015). Hoewel Nederlanders over het algemeen digitaal vaardig zijn (Akkermans, 2016), geldt ook hier dat kwetsbare groepen zoals ouderen en lager opgeleiden minder vaardig zijn (Verhue & Mol, 2019). ...
Technical Report
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Access to justice is widely seen as an essential component of good governance and promoting equal opportunities for all. In the Netherlands, the Minister of Justice and Security is responsible for maintaining an adequately functioning and accessible legal system. This Paths to Justice study provides insight into the experiences of Dutch citizens with the legal system. The study describes the justiciable problems pertaining to civil and administrative law that Dutch citizens experience, which actions they undertake to address these problems, the results obtained, and their evaluation of legal services and procedures. The first Dutch Paths to Justice study was published in 2003, the study was repeated in 2009 and 2014. The current research covers the years 2015-2019. Because the Paths to Justice studies are repeated every five years, it is possible to observe changes over time and to identify preliminary trends.
... While this strategy can be extremely effective for some, it is important to recognise that many people, particularly those in disadvantaged groups, do not seek out assistance for their legal (or non-legal) problems in a timely way. Forell (2015) identifies that for individuals in vulnerable circumstances, 'early' intervention is often at crisis point, but that this is the earliest point at which individuals are able to engage. It was not always clear what prompted the 2018 interviewees to seek advice, with some reporting a long history of involvement with advice services. ...
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This report, jointly commissioned by The Legal Education Foundation and The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, is one of a number of parallel reports published alongside Fitzpatrick et al’s (2018) research “Destitution in the UK”. Fitzpatrick et al’s (2018) research estimates that: “approximately 1,550,000 people, 365,000 of them children, were destitute in UK at some point over the course of 2017” (Fitzpatrick et al. 2018:2). This report explores the role of the law and access to legal services (or lack thereof) in creating pathways into, and out of, destitution. The key recommendations are as follows: A statutory duty on destitution should be created: Primary legislation should establish a clear definition of destitution and a duty on public bodies to protect all persons lawfully present in the UK from destitution. Legal services should be co-located with other crisis and support services: Co-locating services would reduce referral fatigue and improve the ability of advisors to intervene earlier. The resourcing of legal services is vital in order to render any statutory duty to prevent destitution meaningful. Government should be placed under a positive duty to facilitate access to social security: The government should be placed under a positive duty to ensure that individuals are receiving the social security benefits they are entitled to. This would require government to address systemic issues in the administration of benefits.
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The Family Law Early Intervention Unit (EIU) is a state-wide specialist service of Legal Aid NSW, funded under the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services (NPALAS). Among other services, the EIU provides duty lawyer services (duty services) in a number of Family Law Courts in New South Wales. At the request of Legal Aid NSW, the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW (the Foundation) examined the role and impact of the EIU duty service at the Parramatta Family Law Courts. The broad goals of Family Law EIU duty services are to: increase access to earlier, expert legal assistance for self-represented individuals seeking legal help at Family Law Courts in NSW; assist these clients to take timely and appropriate action to progress or resolve their family law matters efficiently and effectively; and help reduce the impact of self-represented litigants on the workload of the Family Law Courts. The key questions addressed in this report are: 1.Who is assisted by the Family Law EIU duty service? 2.How does the EIU duty service differ from the previous duty service? 3.What does the EIU duty service do to assist unrepresented litigants? 4.Has this assistance made a difference to clients and to the courts? 5.What features or activities of the EIU duty service contribute to its outcomes? 6.How does the EIU duty service work as an early intervention strategy?
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This report examines the capacity of prisoners in NSW to obtain legal assistance and to participate effectively in legal processes. 67 prisoners and ex-prisoners and 42 other stakeholders were interviewed using semi-structured questions. The research also drew upon existing literature and available statistics. Findings include that, as well as criminal legal issues, prisoners commonly face a range of civil and family law issues including debt, unpaid fines, unresolved family law issues and apprehended violence orders, housing, child custody arrangements, the retention of their personal effects, employment, and the operation of any business and/or social security payment. While there are opportunities for prisoners to obtain legal assistance, the interplay of the prison environment, inmates’ personal capacity, the pathways through which inmates can access help, and prison culture, all mean that those opportunities are often missed or compromised.
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Using Legal Aid NSW and CCLC corporate and program data, and the results of follow-up interviews with a modest number of the Mortgage Hardship Service (MHS) clients, this evaluation examined: whether the amount of mortgage-related legal assistance provided by Legal Aid NSW and CCLC increased after the MHS commenced; the characteristics of MHS clients and their mortgage issues, including demographic factors, geographic distribution, reasons for hardship and types of lenders; the stage of enforcement that clients were at when first assisted by the MHS; the nature of assistance provided by the MHS; and the outcomes for MHS casework clients. The results of the evaluation indicated that the MHS continues to represent a relevant and important legal service to safeguard the interests of people who experience mortgage stress.
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The Law and Justice Foundation of NSW was asked by Legal Aid NSW to review its outreach services. This review was completed in two stages with Stage 1 providing a statistical overview of Legal Aid outreach services between 2010 and 2012. This report on Stage 2 of the project has primarily focused on a case study undertaken in the Mid North Coast region of NSW, which involved interviews with lawyers, staff and host agencies working in the region. The project also involved interviews with a selection of outreach managers and staff in other parts of NSW. Rather than being an evaluation of existing outreach services, this report draws upon the experiences of practitioners in providing outreach legal services, particularly the challenges they have faced and the lessons they have learned, with the aim of contributing to the ongoing evolution of best practice in outreach at Legal Aid NSW. The Stage 1 report indicated that, since 2010, there was a siginifcant expansion of Legal Aid NSW outreach legal services. The case study and analysis reported here indicates a corresponding growth in outreach practice and expertise within Legal Aid NSW.
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This report into the legal needs of homeless people explores the capacity of homeless people in NSW to obtain legal assistance; to participate effectively in the legal system; and to obtain assistance in legal processes from non-legal advocacy and support agencies. It also examines the role of non-legal support workers and agencies in assisting homeless people to identify and address their legal issues. It is based on a review of existing literature and consultations with legal and non-legal service providers and homeless people themselves.
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One aim of community legal information and education strategies is to promote community understanding of law and what to do about legal problems. Key to this is a focus on providing the knowledge required for individuals to identify that they have a legal issue and to take appropriate action towards its resolution. While the Legal Australia-Wide (LAW) Survey indicates that ‘not knowing what to do’ about a legal problem is indeed a substantial barrier to taking action, how often is it the only reason for inaction? Why else may people not take action and what does this mean for legal assistance strategies? Further analyses of the LAW Survey demonstrate that ‘not knowing what to do’ about a legal problem was rarely the only reason respondents cited for doing nothing to try to resolve a legal problem and was more commonly reported in combination with several other reasons for inaction. Indeed, two distinct clusters of reasons for inaction were observed: one, including ‘not knowing what to do’, pointing to ‘constrained’ inaction and the other pointing to ‘informed’ or appropriately decided inaction. Policy and service implications of the findings are discussed. To be effective, community legal information and education strategies may need to extend beyond the provision of awareness, knowledge and understanding of legal issues to also develop the skills and confidence (or motivation) required to encourage action in response to legal issues.
Though most conceptions of the rule of law assume equality before the law – and hence equal access to the justice system – this basic right is not being met for many low and middle income Canadians. This book focuses on the problem of civil access to justice for middle income earners – those whose household income is high enough to disqualify them from legal aid but not high enough to cover the costs of litigation. Featuring contributions by leading Canadian and international scholars, practitioners, and members of the judiciary, this multidisciplinary collection draws on scholarship in the fields of law, social science, and public policy. There is a particular emphasis on family law, consumer law, and employment law, as these are the areas where research has indicated that unmet legal needs are highest. Middle Income Access to Justice presents a variety of innovative solutions, from dispute resolution process reforms to the development of non-lawyer forms of assistance and new methods for funding legal expenses. In doing so, it lays the foundation for the development of a much-needed new delivery model to provide early intervention for legal services.