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Causes of Action: Civil Law and Social Justice

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  • Victoria Law Foundation

Abstract and Figures

This book provides an insight into the relationship between 'justiciable' problems and deprivation and demonstrates the role of advice and legal services in the fight against social exclusion. A number of key findings can be taken from this report. For example, one in five justicible problems result in no action being taken, this can be because people do not believe anything can be done or that they are too scared. The foreword for this report was written by Lord Falconer of Thoroton, Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor.
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Causes of Action:
Civil Law and Social Justice
Pascoe Pleasence and Alexy Buck,Nigel Balmer,
Aoife O’Grady,Hazel Genn,Marisol Smith
Foreword by the Rt. Hon. Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Causes of Action:
Civil Law and Social Justice
The Final Report of the First LSRC Survey of Justiciable Problems
Pascoe Pleasence
and
Alexy Buck
Nigel Balmer
Aoife O’Grady
Hazel Genn
Marisol Smith
© Legal Services Commission, 2004
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system,
or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or
otherwise, except as permitted by the UK Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, without the
prior permission of the copyright holder.
ISBN 0 11 703327 8
First published 2004
Reprinted incorporating corrections in the United Kingdom for the Stationery Office, May 2004
CR: 169598
Contents
Foreword by Lord Falconer of Thoroton, Secretary of State for
Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor i
Acknowledgements iii
Chapter 1. Introduction: Civil Law and Social Justice 1
Chapter 2. The Experience and Impact of Justiciable Problems 9
Chapter 3. Inaction and Action: Responses to Justiciable Problems 49
Chapter 4. The End: Objectives, and How and When Justiciable 91
Problems Conclude
Chapter 5. An Integrated Approach to Social Justice 105
Notes 119
Appendix A Overview 139
Appendix B Complex Statistical Analysis 143
Appendix C Autobiographical Memory and the Seriousness of Problems 174
Foreword
I welcome the opportunity to contribute a foreword to this important publication. In
building upon Professor Hazel Genn’s groundbreaking Paths to Justice study it
presents a unique insight into the relationship between ‘justiciable’ problems and
deprivation and demonstrates the important role of advice and legal services in the
fight against social exclusion.
As Secretary of State for the new Department for Constitutional Affairs, I have
stressed through my manifesto the importance of justice for all so that particularly
those who are most vulnerable are able to exercise their rights effectively. This study
makes evident the grave social, economic and health consequences of a failure to
enable people to achieve justice. It therefore reveals the extent to which access to
justice supports the Government’s broad social policy objectives. It also strengthens
the case for greater collaboration between the work of my Department and other
Departments of State.
I have been struck by three key findings of the study in particular. First, that
many individuals and families do not experience one isolated justiciable issue, but
often clusters of inter-related issues, sometimes stemming from a single ‘trigger’
problem. The emerging details of trigger problems and problem clusters will be of
enormous value in targeting public support for advice and legal services. Secondly,
that in respect of nearly one in five justiciable problems no action is taken, often
because people do not believe anything can be done, or sometimes because they are
simply too scared to act. The need to raise awareness of individual rights and the
processes that can be used to give effect to them is clearly a vital challenge for the
future. Thirdly, that where people are unable to obtain advice from first advisers they
may give up trying to resolve problems if there is no clear direction to an appropriate
alternative source of advice. The need for signposting and referrals systems that
enable people to navigate the ‘advice maze’ is manifest.
Taken together, the findings from the survey will be of particular relevance in
informing the ongoing development of the Community Legal Service. This is key if
we want genuine access to justice for all to become a reality rather than an aspiration.
i
I am therefore most grateful to the authors for all the work they have done to bring
about this publication and to the National Centre for Social Research for undertaking
the fieldwork for the national and temporary accommodation surveys. I am pleased
that the national survey is to be developed and periodically repeated over the years
ahead, as this will, for the first time, provide the opportunity to evaluate civil justice
policy over the long-term. It will also provide the opportunity to build a progressively
deeper understanding of justiciable problems and the difficulties people face in
resolving them, which will in turn provide the evidence base for innovation in policy
making.
The Right Honourable Lord Falconer of Thoroton
Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor
February 2004
ii
Acknowledgements
The completion of this study would not have been possible but for the contributions
of, literally, thousands of people. We could not hope to detail them all here, but we
would none the less like to formally acknowledge at least some of them. Specifically,
we would like to thank Peter Lynn, Paddy Costigan, Debbie Collins and Kirby
Swales, who worked within the National Centre for Social Research to help finalise
the survey questionnaires and manage the survey fieldwork, along with the many
fieldworkers of the National Centre for Social Research who conducted survey
interviews and, most importantly, the 5,808 people who gave up their time for no
personal reward to be interviewed about sometimes very personal and life-changing
experiences.
We would like to thank the many past and present staff members of the Legal
Services Commission and Department for Constitutional Affairs who worked to make
this study and this publication a reality, and in particular Clare Dodgson, Steve
Orchard, Roger Hamilton, Richard Buxton, Chris Smith, Catherine Max, Helen
Perkins, Derek Hill, Robert Gill, Howard Thomson, Alan Cogbill, Phil Staker, Tony
Donaldson, Lesley Hopcraft, Penny Innes and Stephen Gascoigne. We would also like
to thank Donald Franklin of H.M. Treasury for contributing ideas during the
development of the survey questionnaire. We are also most grateful for the immense
contribution we received from the many members of the Legal Services
Commission’s Regional Planning and Partnership Teams and the many members of
Community Legal Service Partnerships throughout England and Wales with whom
we discussed our provisional findings and from whom we obtained many ideas as to
how to best interpret them and further develop our analyses.
We would like to thank Kathryn Green of the Legal Services Research Centre
for her diligent proof reading of the text and for assisting in drawing up the notes to
the text, and also Ash Patel for his generous assistance.
iii
We would also like to thank Spencer Caston of The Stationery Office for
managing the publication process, and recognise the special contribution of Patrick
Bos Coe in designing and preparing the cover for publication.
Finally, we would like to thank the Nuffield Foundation for having supported
the earlier Paths to Justice study, without which this study may never have been
undertaken.
iv
1
Introduction: Civil Law and Social Justice
The problems to which the principles of civil law apply are not abstract ‘legal
problems’. They are not problems familiar only to lawyers, or discussed only in
tribunals and civil courts. They are in most part the problems of ‘everyday life’1 – the
problems people face as constituents of a broad civil society. Today, following the
establishment over the last thirty years of an extensive range of rights and obligations
related to child support, education, employment, debt, health, housing, and welfare
benefits, these problems involve numerous issues of basic social well-being.2
This does not mean that legal process provides the best, a good, or even a
sensible means through which to resolve particular ‘justiciable’3problems. Many
alternative means of resolution exist. Some of these, such as complaint and
negotiation, often occur with reference to the law – in the ‘shadow of the law’4.
Others, though, such as Lewis’s DIY solution for housing disrepair, invariably occur
without any reference to law at all.5Also, resolutions may be brought about through
governmental, rather than individual, action. However, the existence of a defining
framework of civil law applicable to many problems of everyday social life and social
well-being, and the possibilities for utilising legal services and process to reach
solutions to such justiciable problems, mean that the infrastructure of civil justice
today plays an important role in realising social justice.6Also, especially as those who
experience justiciable problems ‘often experience a problem more than once and
more than one type of problem,’7this infrastructure plays an important role in efforts
to tackle ‘social exclusion’ – the ‘shorthand term for what can happen when people or
areas suffer from a combination of linked problems such as unemployment, poor
skills, low incomes, poor housing, high crime, bad health and family breakdown’.8
This link between the infrastructure of civil justice – which comprises courts,
tribunals, professional and lay legal services, ‘problem noticers’,9and professional
1
and public legal education – and social exclusion is becoming increasingly
recognised. Explicit reference was made to it in the 1998 government white paper
Modernising Justice.10 The white paper heralded the Access to Justice Act 1999 and
the establishment of a Legal Services Commission with responsibility to strategically
develop a Community Legal Service focused on the issues that affect the everyday
lives of the ‘disadvantaged and socially excluded’.11 The Legal Services
Commission’s corporate plan refers to the Community Legal Service as being ‘a
component of a wider government programme aimed at creating a fair and inclusive
society.’12 A recent joint publication of the government and Law Centres Federation
stated that ‘lack of access to reliable legal advice can be a contributing factor in
creating and maintaining social exclusion.’13 It then went on to explain that ‘poor
access to advice has meant that many people have suffered because they have been
unable to enforce their legal rights effectively, or have even been unaware of their
rights and responsibilities in the first place.’ Also, away from government it has been
argued that ‘legal advocacy and advice for the poor and excluded is an effective
engine of social inclusion and fighting poverty through insuring and expanding rights
to critical benefits and services, and giving a voice to grievances and empowering
people and communities.’14
Despite this increasing recognition, though, little research has been undertaken
to identify those people most vulnerable to justiciable problems, to establish how such
problems impact on people’s lives and communities, or to expose how such problems
contribute to social exclusion. Prior to the mid-1990s, few attempts were made even
to assess the prevalence of justiciable problems,15 and little was known about the
strategies people adopt to deal with them, the range of sources from which people
seek advice, the way in which people use dispute resolution processes, people’s
objectives in addressing problems, and the extent to which resolutions match
objectives. Since the mid-1990s, a number of important and innovative studies have
investigated the prevalence of problems and the strategies to deal with them.
However, despite Genn’s Paths to Justice and Paths to Justice Scotland surveys, and
similar surveys conducted in the United States and New Zealand,16 little is known
about how people progress through the maze of advice services they utilise, and what
the infrastructure of civil justice actually ‘delivers’,17 either for individuals or society
at large.
2
In this book, drawing on data collected through the first Legal Services
Research Centre (LSRC) national periodic survey of justiciable problems and a
parallel survey of people living in temporary accommodation, we move on from
Paths to Justice, and set out in detail the irregular experience and impact of justiciable
problems, the pitfalls people face when navigating the advice maze, and the degree to
which legal services and processes facilitate problem resolution and prevention. In so
doing, we illustrate and underline the important links between justiciable problems
and social exclusion, and between civil law and social justice.
THE LSRC NATIONAL PERIODIC SURVEY OF JUSTICIABLE PROBLEMS
The first LSRC national periodic survey of justiciable problems, conducted between
July and October of 2001, constitutes the baseline survey in a long-term project to
provide a broad empirical base for civil justice policy development. It was designed to
establish the nature, pattern and impact of people’s experience of justiciable problems
across England and Wales, and detail the use and success of different problem
resolution strategies. The periodic nature of the survey is intended to overcome the
dangers of using different studies to compare changes in experience and processes over
time,18 and thus allow the impact of government policies to be assessed and progress
against Public Service Agreement (PSA) targets to be measured.19
The first survey is the most extensive of its kind so far undertaken, and builds
upon a tradition of surveys dating back to the recession at the United States’ Bar in
the 1930s.20 The methodology drew heavily from the Paths to Justice survey;
adopting the same approach to identifying justiciable problems, including the same
‘triviality threshold’, and featuring the same limitation to ‘private individuals’.21 It
also incorporated a questionnaire developed from that employed in Genn’s earlier
survey. Important refinements were made, though, to address problems that arose
with the earlier survey (such as in determining sources of financial assistance to those
seeking redress), to shift the balance of questions away from rare events (such as the
use of formal process) towards early stage decision making, and to provide
comprehensive social and demographic data in relation to all survey respondents. The
survey reference period was also reduced from five-and-a-half to three-and-a-half
years to echo the interval between surveys.
3
4
All respondents completed a screen interview, in which they were asked if they
had experienced ‘a problem’ since January 1998 that had been ‘difficult to solve’ in
each of 18 distinct justiciable problem categories: discrimination; consumer;
employment; neighbours; owned housing; rented housing; homelessness;
money/debt; welfare benefits; divorce; relationship breakdown; domestic violence;
children; personal injury; clinical negligence; mental health; immigration; and, unfair
treatment by the police. To assist recall and allow some assessment of the relative
incidence of the different types of problem falling within these categories, for 12 of
them respondents were presented with ‘show cards’ on which were set out detailed
lists of constituent problems, and then asked to indicate which of them, if any,
matched their own problems.22 So, for example, constituent problems relating to
employment included unfavourable changes being made to terms and conditions of
employment the work environment being unsatisfactory or dangerous, and being
sacked or made redundant; constituent problems relating to rented housing included
difficulties in getting a landlord to make repairs, difficulties in obtaining repayment
of a deposit, and eviction; constituent problems relating to money/debt included
difficulties getting someone to pay money that they owe, disputes over bills, being
threatened with legal action to recover money owed, and mismanagement of a
pension fund; constituent problems relating to children included difficulties fostering
or adopting children, difficulties with children going to a school for which they are
eligible, and children being unfairly excluded or suspended from school; and,
constituent problems relating to mental health included unsatisfactory treatment or
care in hospital, unsatisfactory care after release from hospital, and difficulties
obtaining a discharge from hospital.23
In addition, respondents were asked whether, apart from anything already
reported, they had had legal action taken against them, had been threatened with legal
action or had started or considered starting any court proceedings. These problem
categories are similar to those used in the Paths to Justice survey, but with the
inclusion of mental health and homelessness categories, and the exclusion of the
renting out property category. Also, no separate neighbours, welfare benefits,
domestic violence, clinical negligence, immigration or unfair treatment by the police
categories were included in the earlier survey.
For the two most recent problems identified in each category, respondents
were asked what help they had tried to obtain to resolve them, whether and what
formal dispute resolution processes had been utilised, whether and when the problems
concluded, and if nothing was done to deal with them, why this was so. Respondents
were also asked for a range of details about themselves and the household in which
they resided. On average, screen interviews lasted 15 to 25 minutes, depending on
whether problems were identified.
If respondents reported at least one problem in the screen interview (excluding
neighbours problems24), they progressed to a main interview, which addressed a
single problem in depth.25 Areas covered by the main interview included: the sources
of advice and information that respondents considered using; the obstacles faced in
obtaining advice; the nature and extent of assistance provided by advisers;
respondents’ use and experience of courts, tribunals and alternative dispute resolution
(ADR) processes; respondents’ objectives in taking action; the impact and outcome of
problems and resolution strategies; respondents’ regrets about resolution strategies;
sources of financial assistance; and, general attitudes to the civil justice system. On
average, main interviews lasted around 25 minutes.
All interviews were conducted face-to-face in respondents’ own homes and
were arranged and conducted by the National Centre for Social Research.
Respondents were drawn from a random selection of 3,348 residential household
addresses across 73 postcode sectors of England and Wales. 92 per cent of adult
household members (over 18 years of age) were interviewed, yielding 5,611
respondents.26 The household response rate was 57 per cent (66 per cent where
successful contact was made with an adult occupant), and the cumulative eligible
adult response rate was 52 per cent. This compares to other large-scale social surveys,
such as the Family Expenditure Survey (59 per cent in Britain and 56 per cent in
Northern Ireland for 2000/0127), Family Resources Survey (65 per cent for 2000/0128)
and General Household Survey (67 per cent for 2000/0129). Of the 5,611 respondents,
1,623 completed both a screen and a main interview.
Unless indicated otherwise, all figures and analyses reported below are
weighted for non-response using 2001 census data, so as to be generalisable to the
adult population of England and Wales. Weighting also includes a factor to reverse the
effect of oversampling in three postcode sectors.30
5
6
PARALLEL SURVEY OF PEOPLE LIVING IN TEMPORARY ACCOMMODATION
In parallel with the first LSRC national survey of justiciable problems, a separate
survey was conducted of 197 adults in 170 households living at 47 temporary
accommodation addresses (i.e. hostels, boarding houses, bed and breakfast lodgings
and hotels) in 7 local authority areas. The parallel ‘temporary accommodation’ survey
was not intended to be representative of all adults living in this type of temporary
accommodation. Instead, it was intended to provide an indication of the particular
experience of one group of people normally excluded from national surveys – due to
the difficulty of constructing an inclusive sample frame – and contrast it with that of
the ‘national’ survey population. Living in such temporary accommodation is not only
symptomatic of a broad range of social (and justiciable) problems, it can also have ‘a
hugely negative effect on the health, educational, welfare and social development of
children,’31 and consequently increases the likelihood of further justiciable problems.
In light of this, the current government sees the reduction of families living in Bed
and Breakfast accommodation as a priority and established a Bed and Breakfast Unit
in the Homelessness Directorate (now within the Office of the Deputy Prime
Minister) in November 2001. The 2001 census estimated that of the 934,263 people
living in ‘communal establishments’, 38,366 were living in hotels and hostels
(excluding medical and care establishments).32 This represents one-tenth of 1% of the
adult population of England and Wales;33 a small percentage, but nonetheless a
considerable number.
As with the national survey, all interviews were conducted face-to-face and
were arranged and conducted by the National Centre for Social Research. A technical
report of both surveys has been published by the National Centre for Social
Research.34
STRUCTURE OF THE BOOK
Chapter 2 sets out the pattern of experience of justiciable problems across England
and Wales. It provides a detailed analysis of how differences in life circumstances
entail differences in vulnerability to problems, and why different rates of problem
incidence are therefore associated with differently constituted population groups, both
in general terms and within individual problem categories. In doing so, it describes
the vulnerability of certain population groups to problems that can be constituent
7
elements of social exclusion, and the particular vulnerability of socially excluded
groups to the experience of justiciable problems. It then explains how some types of
justiciable problem are experienced commonly in combination, and how certain
problems are more likely to lead to others, or to other social, economic and health
problems. As a part of this, it reveals how, by reinforcing the disadvantage of those
who are vulnerable to justiciable problems, the experience of problems has an
additive effect – meaning that each time a person experiences a problem they become
increasingly likely to experience additional problems. Moreover, it demonstrates how
people who experience multiple problems become disproportionately more likely to
experience some of the problems that play a direct role in social exclusion.
Chapter 3 sets out the ways in which people deal with justiciable problems. It
highlights the sense of powerlessness and helplessness often experienced by those
who face them, and confirms there is a general lack of knowledge about obligations,
rights and procedures on the part of the general public. It reveals that inaction is
common in relation to some serious problem types, and also more likely among some
disadvantaged population groups. In describing the problems in relation to which
people most often obtain advice, it demonstrates that advice is more likely to be
obtained in relation to more serious problems, but also explains how decisions on
whether or not to obtain advice influence the way later problems are resolved. The
chapter then details the many sources from which people attempt to obtain advice, the
difficulties they experience in doing so, and the nature of the advice and additional
help received by those who are successful in doing so. Through this, it illustrates how
people’s choices of advisers, although often logical and apposite, can also be
desperate and unpromising. It also illustrates how people’s choices can be
undermined by the provision of services in manners that do not fit into people’s lives.
In addition, it exposes the phenomenon of referral fatigue, whereby the more times
people are referred on to another advice service by an adviser, the less likely they
become to act on a referral. The chapter thus highlights the importance of equipping
those from whom people initially seek advice with the means to quickly and
effectively refer them on to the most appropriate adviser when necessary. The chapter
also demonstrates the relative infrequency of court, tribunal and alternative dispute
resolution processes being used as part of the process of resolving problems. Lastly,
it details the people and organisations that pay for advice, and in doing so, it confirms
that most advice is provided free at the point of delivery, and that advice is commonly
paid for by legal aid, trade unions, legal expenses insurance and private individuals.
Chapter 4 sets out the range of objectives that motivate people to act to resolve
justiciable problems. It illustrates the different objectives associated with different
problem types, problem resolution strategies, advisers and population groups. In
doing so, it describes how objectives vary along with the consequences of problems,
and confirms that certain problems are more likely to lead to others. It then details the
ways in which problems conclude, and the extent to which people obtain their
objectives. It points to evidence that those who are represented before courts and
tribunals fare better than those who are not, and also that objectives are more often
met in relation to the most important problems. It also explains that, because the
problems in relation to which people obtain advice are fundamentally different from
those they resolve on their own, it is not possible to compare the outcome of these two
sets of problems. Nevertheless, it suggests that it is evident that advice is beneficial
to the problem resolution process. The chapter then explains how the duration of
problems varies by problem and adviser type, and also, seemingly, by seriousness.
Lastly, it shows that although people can greatly benefit from taking action to resolve
justiciable problems, the resolution process can be stressful and even bring about ill-
health.
Chapter 5 highlights the principal findings of the LSRC survey and parallel
survey of people living in temporary accommodation, and draws together the various
threads running through the discussion in previous chapters. It also sets out the
implications of our improved understanding of the nature and experience of
justiciable problems, people’s strategies and difficulties in dealing with them, the
reach of public funding of legal services and the impact of problems, attempts to deal
with them and their resolution.
8
9
2
The Experience and Impact of
Justiciable Problems
This chapter sets out the pattern of experience of justiciable problems across England
and Wales. It provides a detailed analysis of the different rates of problem incidence
associated with differently constituted population groups, both in general terms and
within individual problem categories. In so doing, it describes the vulnerability of
particular population groups to problems that can be constituent elements of social
exclusion, and the particular vulnerability of socially excluded groups to the
experience of justiciable problems. It also explains how some types of justiciable
problem are experienced commonly in combination, and how certain justiciable
problems are more likely to lead to others, or to other social, economic and health
problems.
THE INCIDENCE OF JUSTICIABLE PROBLEMS
Of the 5,611 respondents to the first LSRC national periodic survey, 2,087 (37 per
cent) reported having experienced one or more justiciable problems in the three-and-
a-half years survey reference period; 2,017 (36 per cent) if ‘trivial’35 problems are
excluded. These reporting rates are similar to those of the Paths to Justice survey (40
per cent and 34 per cent respectively36), but higher than those of the Paths to Justice
Scotland survey (24 per cent and 23 per cent respectively37) and lower than those of
surveys conducted recently in the United States (49 per cent38) and New Zealand (51
per cent39). The higher reporting rates in the United States and New Zealand surveys
are at least in part attributable to the inclusion of a broader range of problem
categories.40 Also, the United States survey was of households, rather than
10
individuals; thus entailing a greater chance of problems being reported in each
instance. However, neither focus nor method can account for the much lower
reporting rate in Scotland. The Paths to Justice Scotland survey used the same
methodology and questionnaire as the earlier Paths to Justice survey and shares,
therefore, the earlier survey’s similarities to our own.
In Paths to Justice Scotland Genn and Paterson ‘discounted the possibility that
there is actually a lower incidence of justiciable problems in Scotland, and instead
suggested explanations for a substantial reporting difference between the population
of England and Wales and that of Scotland’. The lower rate in Scotland was ascribed
to a ‘greater sense of fatalism’ and more ‘community-orientation’ on the part of the
Scottish population. These would lead, it was argued, to systematic under-reporting
of problems and a lesser likelihood of them being perceived as ‘individual matters
rather than collective problems’41. Certainly, attitude may lie behind some of the
difference. However, real differences in underlying experience north and south of the
Scottish border cannot be discounted. There are significant geographical and
demographic dissimilarities between Scotland and England and Wales,42 and these
dissimilarities will be reflected in real differences in life circumstances. In turn, as we
will illustrate in later sections, differences in life circumstances entail differences in
vulnerability to justiciable problems. Genn and Paterson themselves observed a
substantial difference in reporting rates as between ‘urban’ (28 per cent) and ‘rural’
(23 per cent) Scottish regions.43 Our findings go on to indicate clearly that the rate of
incidence of justiciable problems can vary considerably between other differently
constituted population groups.
Although 37 per cent of LSRC survey respondents reported one or more
justiciable problems, their experience of problems was far from randomly distributed
across the survey population. We used binary logistic regression to test the influence
of a range of social and demographic predictors on the likelihood of reporting one or
more justiciable problems. Technical details are set out at Appendix B. A number of
predictors were found to be significantly influential: health/disability status; family
type; tenure type; housing type; age; economic activity; income; qualifications.44
Long-standing ill-health or disability was the most influential predictor of
justiciable problems being reported. So, whereas 43 per cent of respondents who
reported long-standing ill-health or disability also reported having experienced one or
more justiciable problems,45 only 35 per cent of the remaining respondents did so.
11
The type of family in which respondents lived also influenced strongly
whether justiciable problems were reported. Thus, whereas 41 per cent of single
respondents reported one or more problems, only 36 per cent of married or co-
habiting respondents did so. Providing even more of a contrast, whereas 66 per cent
of lone parents46 reported problems, just 33 per cent of married or co-habiting
respondents without children did so.
As with type of family, the type of home in which respondents lived had a
strong influence on whether justiciable problems were reported, both in terms of
tenure and physical structure. Those living in the rented sector and those living in flats
or terraced houses were more likely than others to have reported problems.
Accordingly, whereas 46 per cent of respondents who were renting in the private or
public rented sector reported one or more problems, 40 per cent of those with
mortgages and just 25 per cent of those who owned their home outright did so.47
Similarly, whereas 52 per cent of respondents living in flats and 40 per cent of
respondents living in terraced houses reported one or more problems, only 34 per cent
of those living in detached or semi-detached houses did so.
The reporting rate of justiciable problems also varied with age; problems being
reported most frequently by respondents in their thirties, with a peak at the age of 38.
As with other surveys, the reporting of problems then declined consistently as age
increased.48 So, whereas 45 per cent of respondents aged between 25 and 44 reported
one or more problems, just 18 per cent of respondents aged 75 or over did so. Younger
respondents were also less likely to report problems, with only 34 per cent of
respondents aged between 18 and 24 doing so.
Also, respondents in different economic circumstances reported problems at
different rates. Unemployed respondents and those unable to work through sickness
reported problems more often than others. Whereas 54 per cent of unemployed
respondents reported one or more justiciable problems,49 39 per cent of the remainder
of respondents of working age did so. Likewise, whereas 46 per cent of respondents
in receipt of welfare benefits reported one or more problems, only 35 per cent of
others did so.50 Demonstrating the complexity of patterns of vulnerability, though, and
mirroring the findings of the United States survey,51 those with higher incomes were
found to report problems more often than those with lower incomes. 41 per cent of
respondents earning in excess of £50,000 per annum reported one or more problems,
compared to 35 per cent of those earning between £4,000 and £10,000 per annum.
12
However, we also found that those on very low incomes were more likely than others
to report problems. 48 per cent of respondents with an income less than £4,000 per
annum reported one or more problems.52
Finally, as the New Zealand survey found, respondents with academic
qualifications were more likely to report justiciable problems than those without.53 To
some extent this reflected a link between academic qualifications and age, with older
respondents less likely to possess them. Thus, when we included an interaction term
linking academic qualifications and age in our regression model academic
qualifications moved from being the second most influential significant predictor to
being the eighth (of eight) most influential.
Certainly, some of these findings in part reflect differences in understanding,
perception and attitude towards what constitutes ‘a problem’ that is ‘difficult to
solve’. It would be unrealistic to believe a survey such as ours could completely
bypass ‘socially stratified differences in lay perceptions’54 of justiciable problems.
Because our social and demographic data relates only to the time of interview,
differences in reporting rates also reflect in part the social, economic and health
impact of justiciable problems. In the sections that follow, though, we will illustrate
clearly how reporting patterns of all types of problem reflect real underlying patterns
of vulnerability.
As with the Paths to Justice surveys,55 we did not find any differences in the
overall problem reporting rates of male or female respondents, white or black and
minority ethnic respondents,56 or respondents receiving or not receiving welfare
benefits. However, as we will also illustrate, there were significant differences in the
types of problems reported by respondents in these population groups.
INCIDENCE AMONG THOSE IN TEMPORARY ACCOMMODATION
Given the findings in the previous section, it is no surprise that respondents to the
parallel survey of people living in temporary accommodation – being much more
often lone parents (30 per cent, compared to 4 per cent),57 substantially younger (43
per cent aged under 25, compared to 8 per cent),58 less economically active (25 per
cent in employment, compared to 60 per cent),59 on very low incomes (median
income less than £6,000 per annum, compared to £20,000),60 and not living in their
own homes – reported justiciable problems much more often than LSRC survey
respondents. Overall, 84 per cent of temporary accommodation survey respondents
reported one or more justiciable problems;61 more than two and a quarter times the
rate of incidence in the LSRC survey. If ‘trivial’ problems are excluded, the figure
reduces slightly to 83 per cent.62
THE INCIDENCE OF PROBLEMS OF DIFFERENT TYPES
The reported incidence of problems of different types varied greatly in the LSRC
survey. As with the United States, New Zealand and first Paths to Justice surveys,
consumer problems were reported most frequently (13 per cent of respondents), and
immigration and nationality problems least frequently (1/3 per cent of respondents).63
Other commonly reported problems were those relating to noisy or anti-social
neighbours (8 per cent), money and debt (8 per cent), employment (6 per cent),
housing (owned or rented) (6 per cent64), personal injury (4 per cent), and family
breakdown (4 per cent65). Other rarely reported problems were those relating to unfair
treatment by the police (2/3 per cent), homelessness (2/3 per cent), and mental health
(1/2 per cent). Details are set out in Table 2.1.
The frequency of reporting of different problem types in large part reflects the
frequency of experience of the ‘defining circumstances’ from which they can arise.
The most common problems arise from circumstances routinely experienced across
the adult population. Consumer problems arise from transactions for goods and
services. Problems with noisy or anti-social neighbours arise where people live in
proximity. Money and debt problems arise from financial dealings. Employment
problems arise from being employed. Rare problems, on the other hand, arise from
circumstances that people experience much less frequently. Immigration problems
arise from people changing their country of abode, residence status or citizenship.
Mental health problems arise from people suffering or appearing to suffer from
mental illness. Clinical negligence problems arise from people receiving clinical
treatment.
Of course, the reporting rates of different problem types also reflect other
things. The likelihood of justiciable problems arising from defining circumstances
varies between problem types, as does the likelihood of problems arising that are
‘difficult to solve’. Accordingly, reporting rates in part reflect these likelihoods. This
explains why, despite the fact that twice as many respondents owned as rented their
13
14
home, 50 per cent more people reported problems relating to rented housing than
reported problems relating to owned housing.
Table 2.1
Reported Incidence of Problem Types
Problem Type % N
Consumer 13.3 748
Neighbours 8.4 471
Money/debt 8.3 465
Employment 6.1 344
Personal injury 3.9 217
Rented housing 3.8 215
Owned housing 2.4 135
Welfare benefits 2.3 127
Relationship breakdown 2.2 124
Divorce 2.2 122
Children 1.9 108
Clinical negligence 1.6 92
Domestic violence 1.6 88
Discrimination 1.4 80
Unfair treatment by the police 0.7 38
Homelessness 0.6 36
Mental health 0.5 26
Immigration 0.3 18
Weighted base=5,611
In addition, the reporting rates of different problem types in part reflect the
propensity of respondents to recall and then disclose details of them. The similarity,
frequency and salience of problems all influence the propensity of respondents to
recall them66 – a matter we explore further in Appendix C. Beyond recall, though,
disclosure of the details of some problems may involve social embarrassment or
shame, and may also raise concerns of privacy, confidentiality, and personal safety.
Domestic violence, mental health and debt problems might all be expected to be
underreported to some degree in consequence.67
PATTERNS OF VULNERABILITY AND THE IMPACT OF JUSTICIABLE PROBLEMS
The fact that justiciable problems arise from defining circumstances entails that
experience of them varies between different population groups. Those people who
most often experience the defining circumstances of a particular type of problem will
15
also, all else being equal, most often experience problems of that type. However, all
else is not always equal. People’s physical make-up, experience, resources and
disposition will also affect their vulnerability to experiencing problems – especially
problems that are ‘difficult to solve’. Justiciable problems, and particularly those that
are difficult to solve and are the subject of this study, do not therefore strike
indiscriminately.
We used binary logistic regression to test the influence of a range of social and
demographic predictors on the likelihood of individual problem types being reported.
Technical details are set out at Appendix B. Drawing on those predictors found to be
significantly influential in relation to the reporting of one or more problem types, we
are able to determine the likely basic features of patterns of vulnerability to those
problems studied. Some of the predictors also give indication of the substantial
impact that justiciable problems can have on people’s lives. Because our social and
demographic data relates only to the time of interview, we are not always able to
conclude whether particular situations contributed to or followed from individual
problems. In many instances, though, this is readily apparent, and where it is not we
are able to draw upon other studies to support our analysis.
Stages of Life
As people move through life their circumstances change and expose them to different
types of justiciable problem. Respondents’ ages had a significant influence in
predicting 14 of the 18 problem types studied: consumer, neighbours, money/debt,
rented housing, welfare benefits, relationship breakdown (i.e. disputes over assets,
maintenance, and residence and contact), divorce, children, domestic violence,
discrimination, unfair treatment by the police, homelessness, mental health, and
immigration.
The youngest respondents were most likely to report rented housing, unfair
treatment by the police, homelessness and mental health problems. This reflects the
fact that younger people are less economically independent, more mobile,68 live in
poorer standard accommodation,69 are most likely to be involved in criminal activity
(and are therefore most likely to have contact with the police),70 and are at increased
risk of psychiatric disorder.71 The difference in simple numerical reporting rates of
rented housing and homelessness problems between 18 to 24 year old respondents
16
and older respondents was compounded by the fact that over 80 per cent of them lived
in the rented housing sector, compared to just 30 per cent of older respondents.
Consequently, whereas 11 per cent of 18 to 24 year old respondents reported
rented housing problems, just 3 per cent of older respondents did so. Likewise,
whereas 3 per cent of 18 to 24 year old respondents reported homelessness problems,
fewer than one-half of 1 per cent of older respondents did so (Figure 2.1).
All else being equal, 25 to 34 year old respondents were most likely to report
immigration, consumer, money/debt and domestic violence problems. The likelihood
of reporting immigration problems peaked at 30, reflecting a pattern of migration in
75+
60-74
45-59
35-44
25-24
18-24
All
Consumer
Neighbours
Money / Debt
Employment
Personal injury
Housing (rent)
Housing (own)
Welfare benefits
Relat. breakdown
Divorce
Children
Clinical negligence
Domestic violence
Discrimination
Police treatment
Homelessness
Mental health
Immigration
05101520
Percentages of respondents
Figure 2.1
Reported Incidence of Problem Types by Age
Problem category
17
which young people of working age are most likely to migrate to or seek asylum in
the United Kingdom72 Consumer problems and money/debt problems peaked at 32
and 33 respectively, echoing increasing personal expenditure and use of debt as
people become economically independent and commence acquiring major assets -
such as houses. However, although 13 per cent of 25 to 34 year olds reported
money/debt problems, compared to 7 per cent of respondents in other age groups,
clear differences were observable in the ages of respondents reporting different types
of money/debt problems. Thus, whereas problems with debt peaked at 29, problems
relating to recovering money and financial services did not peak until 42 and 43
respectively. Domestic violence problems also peaked at 33, with increasing numbers
of people living with partners while still at an age where violent conduct is prevalent.
As people move on through their thirties and early forties, the great majority
will live with a partner, and the number of households containing children will reach
its highest. This paves the way for peaks in the number of divorces, problems
ancillary to relationship breakdown, and problems relating to children.73 So, twice as
many divorces and problems ancillary to relationship breakdown were reported by
those between 35 and 44 as by others. However, whereas disputes over assets peaked
in the early forties, disputes over residence and contact peaked earlier, in the early
thirties, reflecting an interaction between the age of children and the accumulation of
equity. Problems relating to welfare benefits peaked at 39, coinciding with a peak in
the take-up of working families tax credit. Discrimination problems peaked at 40.
As people move into their late forties and fifties their children start to leave
home and the number of family problems subsides appreciably. By this age rented
housing problems are also in steep decline, and problems relating to homelessness
and unfair police treatment are very rarely experienced. Homelessness problems, for
example, were reported by fewer than one-fifth of 1 per cent of respondents aged over
44. Of course, those people who become homeless later in life may be less able to
escape from the predicament, which would result in underreporting by people in
standard residential accommodation.74 Contrasting with other problem types,
consumer, money/debt, and welfare benefits problems remain prevalent at this age,
and neighbours problems only come to peak at 50; this late peak in neighbours
problems perhaps reflecting a greater sensitivity to them on the part of older people.
It may also, though, reflect greater periods of time spent in the home.
18
Respondents aged over 59 reported ever fewer problems of all types, except
those relating to mental health; the increase in problems relating to mental health
reflecting an increasing risk of depression, anxiety disorder and dementia among
older people.75 Also, although in general rented housing problems were much less
frequently reported by older respondents, problems with unsafe or unsatisfactory
rented housing were frequently reported by retired respondents; perhaps reflecting a
greater reliance on others to maintain the upkeep of their accommodation, in both
physical and economic terms.
Decreasing reporting rates of other problem types among older respondents do
not necessarily reflect an equal decline in the prevalence of the defining
circumstances of problems. As already suggested, people will find problems easier to
deal with as they become more familiar with them. People’s sensitivities and senses
of importance will also change over time. In addition, some of the decreased reporting
rates of respondents of retirement age may reflect ignorance of circumstances,
compounded by the frequent growing isolation of old age. For example, the decrease
in welfare benefits problems reported by those aged 75 or over may reflect lack of
knowledge of the availability of benefits. It may also reflect a reluctance to engage
with the benefits system.
Although age was not found to be a significant predictor of employment or
money/debt problems being reported, retirement status was. Retired respondents,
94% of whom were aged 60 or over, were substantially less likely to report
employment problems than other respondents, as a consequence, of course, of their
greatly reduced levels of employment. Accordingly, the reporting rate of employment
problems can be seen in Figure 1.1 to drop considerably after the age of 59. In
contrast, retired respondents were more likely than others to report money/debt
problems.
Gender
Gender had a significant influence in predicting 3 of the 18 problem types studied:
domestic violence, clinical negligence and unfair treatment by the police. Female
respondents were much more likely than male respondents to report being victims of
domestic violence. 24 per cent of reported victims of domestic violence were men.
Both the overall incidence of domestic violence reported through the LSRC survey
and the proportion of male victims are therefore much lower than reported through
19
the British Crime Survey. The 1996 British Crime Survey, using a computer assisted
self-interviewing (CASI) method, indicated that 5 per cent of adults had been the
victim of a domestic assault or frightening threat of such assault.76 There was no
difference in the reporting rates of assault (4 per cent) between female and male
respondents, though female respondents more often reported threats. The difference
between the results of the 1996 British Crime Survey and the LSRC survey can be
explained in large part, though, by differences in the method of interview used and the
fact that the LSRC survey included only problems that were regarded as ‘difficult to
solve’. Just 32 per cent of female and 9 per cent of male respondents who reported
domestic violence through the 1996 British Crime Survey CASI questionnaire also
reported it through standard interviews. So, far fewer male than female respondents
would be expected to report domestic violence through the LSRC survey. Also,
female respondents to the 1996 British Crime Survey were twice as likely as male
respondents to report violence that resulted in injury, and four times as likely to report
having been upset or frightened by it.77 So again, fewer male than female respondents
would be expected to report domestic violence through the LSRC survey.
Female respondents were also more likely than male respondents to report
clinical negligence problems, reflecting greater use of health services by women and
the unique risks associated with childbirth.78 So, whereas 2 per cent of female
respondents reported such problems, just 1 per cent of male respondents did so. Male
respondents on the other hand, were much more likely than female respondents to
report unfair treatment by the police; accounting for 74 per cent of all such problems.
As was the case with young respondents, this reflects the greater male involvement in
criminal activity and proportion of men therefore becoming the subject of police
interest.79
Although gender was found to be a significant influence in predicting only 3
general problem types, it was also found to be a significant influence in predicting
narrower defined problems relating to obtaining maintenance payments; a continuing
symptom of the economic imbalance between women and men in this country.
Also, there were disproportionate reporting rates between women and men
associated with a further 4 general problem types, identified using a simple χ2test:
employment,80 personal injury,81 neighbours82 and rented housing.83 These
associations were not highlighted by multivariate regression analysis as they are
linked to other aspects of vulnerability that provide a better explanation of variance.
20
So, although more male than female respondents reported employment and personal
injury problems, this was a consequence of the influence of, among other things,
employment patterns, which in turn vary greatly between women and men. Similarly,
although more female than male respondents reported neighbours and rented housing
problems, this was a consequence of, among other things, patterns of household
composition, that also vary greatly between women and men.
Ethnicity
Ethnicity also had a significant influence in predicting 3 of the 18 problem types
studied: divorce, discrimination and immigration. White respondents were more than
twice as likely as black and minority ethnic respondents to report a divorce, less than
one-quarter as likely to report discrimination, and less than one-tenth as likely to
report an immigration problem. Indeed, just one-tenth of 1 per cent of white
respondents reported immigration problems, compared with 3 per cent of black and
minority ethnic respondents.
Also, although in general rented housing problems were reported equally by
white and black and minority ethnic respondents, white respondents were only one-
third as likely to report problems relating to unsafe or unsatisfactory rented housing,
perhaps reflecting their lesser likelihood of living in a high density urban
environment.84
However, echoing Smith’s findings in relation to the criminal justice system,85
our analysis reveals that it is inadequate to distinguish merely between white and
black and minority ethnic respondents in an investigation into differences in the
experience of diverse ethnic populations. There are important differences in the
experience of different black and minority ethnic groups, and these are masked when
black and minority ethnic groups are amalgamated. We therefore undertook our
analysis using both binomial (white, black and minority ethnic) and multinomial
(white, Asian, black, mixed, other) ‘ethnicity’ variables.86
The results of our analysis using the multinomial variable indicated that Asian
and mixed-ethnicity respondents were much more likely to report discrimination than
either white or black respondents. In contrast, black respondents were much more
likely to report immigration problems than either white or Asian respondents, and
‘other’ ethnicity respondents were much more likely to do so than black respondents;
reflecting changing patterns of immigration to the United Kingdom. For example, the
number of people immigrating from outside of the Old and New Commonwealths and
the European Union more than doubled between 1997 and 1999.87
Analysis using the multinomial variable also suggested, though our findings
were not statistically significant, that Asian respondents were least likely to report
domestic violence. This is in line with the findings of the 1996 British Crime Survey.88
It is also consistent with the suggestion that Asian respondents were least likely to
report problems relating to their children’s education or problems ancillary to
relationship breakdown, which we have shown elsewhere to be more likely where
there is domestic violence in a family.89 A lower rate of education problems also
concords with differing patterns of educational attainment associated with different
ethnic groups in the United Kingdom.90 There may also, though, have been
underreporting of domestic violence problems by Asian respondents as a consequence
of cultural and religious attitudes to problems occurring within the family.91
Economic Circumstances
Aspects of respondents’ economic circumstances92 had a significant influence in
predicting all types of justiciable problem studied, apart from divorce and domestic
violence. Unlike age, gender and ethnicity, though, economic circumstances can
change as a result of the experience of justiciable problems. To some extent, therefore,
we are looking here not only at patterns of vulnerability to problems, but also at their
economic impact.
As regards patterns of vulnerability, respondents on higher incomes were more
likely than those lower down the income scale to report consumer problems,
presumably in consequence of their greater consumer activity. So, respondents
earning in excess of £30,000 per annum reported consumer problems twice as often
as those earning less than £10,000, and problems with builders and holidays three
times as often. Respondents receiving welfare benefits were also, though, more likely
than others to report consumer problems; a finding perhaps explained by the greater
relative value to them of routine consumer transactions. This might lead to them
finding routine consumer problems more ‘difficult to solve’. This explanation is
consistent with the finding that respondents receiving welfare benefits reported a
21
22
disproportionate number of low value consumer problems, including, for example,
problems relating to unfit food products and small electrical purchases.
Respondents on higher incomes were also more likely to report problems with
investment services, such as mismanagement of pensions, and problems to do with
owned housing, echoing their greater opportunities to utilise such services and
purchase their own home(s).
Respondents on lower incomes, on the other hand, were more likely than those
higher up the income scale to report problems relating to unsafe or unsatisfactory
rented housing and homelessness. Indeed, respondents earning less than £10,000
reported problems relating to unsafe or unsatisfactory rented housing ten times as
often as those earning in excess of £30,000, and homelessness problems nine times as
often, reflecting their lesser range of housing options and economic independence.93
Again, those on lower incomes were more likely to report problems relating to their
children’s education, owing possibly in part to their lesser ability to choose the
schools their children attend and, once more, their lesser range of housing options –
which makes them less able to move to the catchment areas of better performing
schools.94 Reflecting higher rates of benefit receipt, those on lower incomes were also
more likely to report problems relating to welfare benefits.
In addition to consumer problems, and independent of income, respondents
receiving welfare benefits were more likely than others to report homelessness and
debt and severe money management problems, again reflecting lesser economic
independence. They were also more likely to report rented housing problems;
although this did not extend to problems relating to unsafe or unsatisfactory housing.
Moreover, respondents receiving welfare benefits more often reported problems
relating to unfair police treatment.95
Presumably as a simple consequence of their spending more time at home,
respondents who described themselves as ‘looking after the home or family’ and
respondents who were unable to work because of illness were more likely than others
to report problems to do with neighbours. Naturally, those respondents who were
looking after the home or family also reported fewer employment problems, along
with the self-employed. They were also more likely to report problems ancillary to the
breakdown of a relationship, reflecting their enhanced child care role and their lack
of income through employment.
Respondents in full-time employment were more likely than others to report
personal injury problems, possibly as a consequence of their greater exposure to
industrial, construction and other workplace accidents. Respondents in part-time
employment, on the other hand, were more likely to report money and debt problems
of all descriptions, and, along with the self-employed and those unable to work
because of illness, were also more likely to report problems of clinical negligence.
However, in the latter case, the employment status of respondents is more likely to
have resulted from the clinical negligence reported, than to have contributed to its
experience.
The self-employed and those unable to work because of illness were also more
likely to have reported problems relating to mental health. However, although the
latter of these has a clear link to the experience of mental illness, it is not immediately
apparent what the association is between self-employment – which encompasses a
heterogeneity of forms of work96– and problems relating to mental health. Indeed, the
results of the EUROSTAT ill-health module of the 1999 Labour Force survey
indicated that the self-employed were less likely than employees to report conditions
such as work-related stress.97 Possibly, though, those with mental health problems,
facing discrimination and difficulties in adapting to employment, are more likely to
become self-employed.
Finally, employment problems were most likely to be reported by the
unemployed, demonstrating the immediate economic impact that can be brought
about by justiciable problems of this type.
Housing and Tenure Types
The type of housing in which respondents lived and their form of tenure, both linked
to their economic circumstances, had a significant influence in predicting 16 of the 18
problem types studied: consumer, neighbours, money/debt, employment, personal
injury, rented housing, owned housing, welfare benefits, relationship breakdown,
divorce, children, domestic violence, discrimination, homelessness, mental health,
and immigration. Indeed, it is probably a further reflection of economic
circumstances that saw respondents who owned their own homes more likely than
others to report consumer problems and less likely than others to report problems
relating to homelessness. Economic factors may also have been behind respondents
living in detached and semi-detached houses having been less likely to report
problems relating to rented housing and immigration, and respondents in the rented
23
24
housing sector having been more likely to report problems relating to money and debt
(especially debt and severe money management problems)98 and welfare benefits.
Respondents who lived in detached houses were also less likely to report
problems relating to personal injury, reflecting their lesser likelihood of working in
heavy labour jobs. Again, they were also less likely to report problems with
neighbours, possibly as a consequence of their having fewer neighbours to have
problems with.
Respondents living rent free in a household were more likely than others to
report problems relating to mental health and discrimination, suggesting that the
incidence of mental illness may be higher among this population group. We are not
able, though, to verify this. In fact, such respondents were less likely than others to
report long-standing ill-health or disability.99
Indicating the impact of relationship breakdown, described in detail below,
respondents in detached houses were less likely to report problems ancillary to
relationship breakdown, divorce, domestic violence and problems relating to children.
Likewise, respondents in the private rented sector were more likely to report divorce
and problems ancillary to relationship breakdown.
Justiciable Problems and the Family
The type of family in which respondents lived had a significant influence in
predicting 10 of the 18 problem types studied: neighbours, employment, rented
housing, owned housing, relationship breakdown, divorce, children, domestic
violence, discrimination, and mental health.
As is indicated by Figure 2.2, for every one of these problem types, except
employment, lone parent respondents were more likely to report having experienced
them than respondents living in other types of family, a matter of particular concern
given the steady increase over the past thirty years in the number of lone parents.
Lone parent households now account for 22 per cent of all households with dependent
children.100
Unsurprisingly, lone parent and other single respondents were more likely than
married or co-habiting respondents to report divorce and problems ancillary to
relationship breakdown;101 although, reflecting the greater likelihood of a significant
past relationship and the presence of children, lone parents were more likely than
other single respondents to do so, and much more likely to report problems relating
to maintenance payments and the division of assets. Again unsurprisingly, lone
parents were more likely to report having experienced domestic violence; the
violence no doubt having played a part in the breakdown of an abusive relationship.
However, the change in personal circumstances that results from relationship
breakdown, especially for those with whom any children of the relationship come to
reside, leaves lone parents particularly vulnerable to a range of further problems,
many of which can constitute elements of social exclusion.
For example, a report by the National Council for One Parent Families and the
homelessness charities Crisis and Health Action for Homeless People stated,
25
Consumer
Neighbours
Money / Debt
Employment
Personal injury
Housing (rent)
Housing (own)
Welfare benefits
Relat. breakdown
Divorce
Children
Clinical negligence
Domestic violence
Discrimination
Police treatment
Homelessness
Mental health
Immigration
0 5 10 15 20 25
Percentages of respondents
Figure 2.2
Reported Incidence by Family Type
Problem category
Couple with children
Couple
Lone parent
Single
All
Lone parenthood is associated with downward mobility in the housing market.
One-parent families are more likely than others to be in public-sector housing
or lower standard private housing.102
Consequently, we found that lone parent respondents were more likely than others to
report problems to do with both owned and rented housing, especially problems to do
with unsafe or unsatisfactory rented housing. Indeed, 11 per cent of lone parents
reported problems concerning unsafe or unsatisfactory rented housing, compared to
fewer than 1 per cent of other respondents.
The finding that lone parent respondents reported more problems relating to
owned housing than respondents living in any other type of family went against the
general trend of married and co-habiting respondents reporting more such problems;
reflecting their greater earning potential. However, the problems lone parents reported
were different from those reported by married and co-habiting respondents, relating
more often to communal repairs and conveyancing and not at all to planning matters.
Also, no lone parent reported a problem relating to repossession of the family home.
As with quality of housing, the general standard of living of lone parents has
been reported as being much lower than that of rest of the population.103 Thus,
although this was not highlighted by multivariate regression,104 lone parents
disproportionately reported money/debt problems.105 This drop in living standard
relates in part to the obstacles faced by lone parents in gaining employment,106
resulting in considerably lower rates of employment (although as a consequence of
the New Deal for Lone Parents the gap is starting to narrow)107. Accordingly, lone
parent respondents were more likely to report discrimination problems and less likely
to report employment problems. Also, lone parents are far more likely to receive
welfare benefits than the rest of the population. In 2001 it was estimated that half of
lone parents in Britain were receiving income support and one-third Working
Families Tax Credit.108 Thus, although again this was not highlighted by multivariate
regression, lone parents disproportionately reported welfare benefits problems.109
There was, though, a difference between female and male110 lone parent
respondent employment patterns. Female lone parents were less likely to be working
(42 per cent, compared to 50 per cent)111 and more likely to be receiving welfare
benefits (90 per cent, compared to 67 per cent)112. They were also considerably more
26
27
likely to be in part-time employment if they were working (26 per cent, compared to
6 per cent).113 In consequence, female lone parents reported welfare benefits problems
more frequently than male lone parents (8 per cent, compared to 6 per cent), although
the difference was not statistically significant.
As a result of the ‘major emotional’114 impact of relationship breakdown, and
the fact that many lone parents are unable to work, have no partner to share
responsibilities or ‘engage in reflective dialogue regarding parenting issues’,115 have
limited financial resources and live in unsuitable housing, lone parents can be
susceptible to experiencing psychiatric and other health problems.116 It is not
surprising, therefore, that lone parents were more likely to report justiciable problems
relating to mental health than those living in other types of family.
Finally, as would be expected, lone parents, along with other respondents with
resident children, were more likely than others to report problems relating to
children.117 They were also both more likely than others to report problems relating
to neighbours, probably reflecting the greater amount of time spent in the home.
Long-Standing Ill-Health And Disability
Health and disability status had a significant influence in predicting 14 of the 18
problem types studied: consumer, neighbours, money/debt, employment, personal
injury, rented housing, owned housing, welfare benefits, relationship breakdown,
clinical negligence, domestic violence, discrimination, homelessness, and mental
health.
It has been said that ‘of all the disadvantaged groups in society, the disabled
are the most socially excluded,’ and that as a consequence ‘life opportunities remain
severely restricted for many.’118 Disabled people and those with long-standing ill-
health often experience disadvantage in the labour market,119 and the consequent
economic hardship suffered means that poverty is a ‘key factor in the modern
constitution of disability’.120 Thus, we found that respondents who reported long-
standing ill-health or disability were far more likely than others to report
discrimination problems. Indeed, no fewer than half of all the discrimination
problems reported through the LSRC survey concerned disability discrimination.
Respondents who reported long-standing ill-health or disability were also more likely
to report problems concerning employment, money and debt and welfare benefits. So,
28
for example, whereas more than 4 per cent of such respondents reported problems
relating to welfare benefits, fewer than 2 per cent of others did so.
Disabled people and those with long-standing ill-health are also prone to being
‘selected out’121 of home ownership and, despite the system of prioritisation for social
housing, are ‘often relegated to housing of poorer standard’.122 Consequently,
respondents who reported long-standing ill-health or disability were more likely to
report problems relating to rented housing. They were also more likely to report
problems relating to homelessness.
Again, people with physical or mental incapacities are ‘at greater risk of all
forms of abuse and violence than are the general population,’123 and because of their
greater exposure to clinical procedures are at greater risk of being further injured or
disabled through clinical intervention. Thus, respondents who reported long-standing
ill-health or disability were much more likely to report problems relating to domestic
violence and clinical negligence. In fact, ill or disabled respondents reported domestic
violence twice as often, and clinical negligence four times as often as others.
Respondents who reported long-standing illness or disability, which includes
mental illness or impairment, being much more exposed to the defining circumstances
of justiciable problems relating to mental health, were also much more likely to report
problems of this type.124 In addition, being more exposed to the activity of neighbours,
as a consequence of being more likely to spend longer periods of time at home, they
were more likely to report problems to do with neighbours.
Of course, illness and disability not only increase vulnerability to the
experience of justiciable problems. Justiciable problems can also cause, or exacerbate
pre-existing illness and disability.
Clearly, negligent accidents, clinical negligence and domestic violence can do
so – and, as well as the immediate physical consequences of the latter, such violence
can also have serious psychological effects, manifesting as, for example, post-
traumatic stress disorder and battered wife syndrome.125 Likewise, housing in a state
of disrepair126 and overcrowded households can bring about physical and
psychological ill-health.127 Also, problems relating to discrimination128 and
employment129 can lead to psychological ill-health, as can (frequently related)
problems to do with debt.130
As well as domestic violence, non-violent justiciable problems relating to the
family, such as divorce and disputes ancillary to relationship breakdown can also
29
cause long-term psychological ill-health, both on the part of adult and child family
members – particularly as they become more acrimonious.131 Thus, respondents
reporting disputes ancillary to relationship breakdown were much more likely than
others to report a long-standing illness or disability; especially if disputes related to
the division of assets. However, we did not observe a link between illness and
disability and divorce on its own, consistent with the idea that people cope better with
less problematic separations.
Further, a secondary analysis of data from the British Household Panel Survey
has found that mortgage indebtedness adversely impacts on health and increases the
likelihood that men will visit general practitioners.132 Consequently, it was recently
suggested that ‘the stress caused by mortgage arrears and repossession needs to be
viewed as a major health issue.’133 Consistent with this, we found respondents who
reported long-standing ill-health or disability were more likely than others to report
problems relating to owned housing, and were also more likely to report problems
relating to repossession.
THE INCIDENCE OF PROBLEMS AMONG THOSE IN TEMPORARY ACCOMMODATION
Given, as described above, that respondents to the parallel survey of people living in
temporary accommodation were much more often lone parents, substantially younger,
much less economically active and on considerably lower incomes than their LSRC
survey counterparts, it is not surprising that they reported a very different pattern of
experience of the different types of justiciable problem studied (Figure 2.3).
Given that complications with housing will have been the reason for many
respondents to the parallel survey having come to live in temporary accommodation,
it is not surprising that they were far more likely than LSRC survey respondents to
report problems relating to rented housing (52 per cent, compared to 4 per cent).134
However, aside from this inherent difference, the reporting rate of such problems
would have been expected to be much higher among a sample with such a young
profile, and including such a high proportion of lone parents.
The high proportion of lone parents did not translate into a significantly higher
reporting rate of children related problems, although such problems were reported
more frequently by respondents to the parallel survey. However, there were in fact
similar numbers of households containing children in the two surveys, only whereas
30
almost all children within households included in the parallel survey were in lone
parent families, the great majority of children within households in the LSRC survey
were in two parent families.
Again, as more than half of respondents to the parallel survey were black and
minority ethnic,135 it is not surprising that the reporting rates of problems relating to
immigration and discrimination were much higher than those in the LSRC survey.136
Likewise, as almost three times as many respondents to the parallel survey as to the
LSRC survey reported being in receipt of welfare benefits, a much higher incidence
of justiciable problems relating to welfare benefits was inevitable.137 The reporting
Consumer
Neighbours
Money / Debt
Employment
Personal injury
Housing (rent)
Housing (own)
Welfare benefits
Relat. breakdown
Divorce
Children
Clinical negligence
Domestic violence
Discrimination
Police treatment
Homelessness
Mental health
Immigration
0 5 10 15 20 25
Percentages of respondents
Figure 2.3
Comparison of Problem Incidence between Surveys
Problem category
LSRC survey
Temp. accom. survey
52%
31
rate of employment problems was also higher among respondents to the parallel
survey,138 perhaps linking to the higher unemployment rates they also reported.
Although most problem types were reported more frequently by respondents
to the parallel survey, consumer problems were reported considerably less frequently
by them, reflecting their substantially lower incomes and consumer activity.
THE EXPERIENCE OF MULTIPLE PROBLEMS
Respondents to the LSRC survey reported 4,214 justiciable problems; 4,050 if trivial
problems are excluded.139 This equates to an average of just over 2 problems per
respondent who reported a problem. Problems were not, though, reported in equal
numbers by those who had experienced them (Figure 2.4). Experiencing justiciable
problems has an additive effect. Each time a person experiences a problem they
become increasingly likely to experience additional problems. So, of the 37 per cent
of respondents who reported one or more justiciable problems, 46 per cent reported
two or more, and of those 47 per cent reported three or more. This pattern continued
as the number of problems increased, culminating in 88 per cent of respondents who
reported 8 or more problems reporting nine or more.140
As certain population groups – including people with a long-standing illness
or disability, lone parents and those receiving welfare benefits – are more vulnerable
than others to a range of justiciable problems, and as the experience of justiciable
problems can itself increase such vulnerability – through, for example, bringing about
illness or disability,141 lone parenthood142 or unemployment143 – the proportion of
0 1 2 3 4 5 6+
4000
3500
3000
2500
2000
1500
1000
500
0
Number of problems
Figure 2.4
Number of Justiciable Problems Reported
Number of respondents
32
respondents in vulnerable groups increased as the number of problems reported
increased. So, as can be seen from Figure 2.5, whereas 27 per cent of respondents who
reported just one problem also reported a long-standing illness or disability, the figure
rose to 38 per cent among those respondents who reported six or more problems.
Likewise, while just 24 per cent of respondents who reported one problem were in
receipt of welfare benefits, the figure rose to 52 per cent among those who reported 6
or more problems, and for lone parenthood the figures were 4 per cent and 24 per cent
respectively. Univariate analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) confirmed that
respondents in these population groups, along with those living in high density
housing and in the private rented sector, were significantly more likely to report
multiple problems than were others. Technical details are set out at Appendix B.
Also, as people experience multiple problems, they become increasingly likely
to experience problems that play a direct role in social exclusion. So, for example,
whereas just one-fifth of 1 per cent of respondents who reported one problem reported
a problem relating to homelessness, 9 per cent of respondents who reported six or
more problems did so. Whereas 4 per cent of respondents who reported one problem
reported a problem relating to unsafe or unsatisfactory rented housing, 29 per cent of
those who reported six or more problems did so. Also, whereas 3 per cent of
respondents who reported one problem reported a divorce, 20 per cent of those who
reported six or more problems did so (Figure 2.6).
0 1 2 3 4 5 6+
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
Number of problems reported
Figure 2.5
Multiple Problems and Personal Circumstances
Ill-health/
disability
Receipt of
benefits
Lone parent
families
% of respondents
To a large extent these differences in reporting rates reflect the general
increased incidence of problems among those who experience many of them.
However, some problem types become more prevalent as the number of problems
increases.
To establish which problem types become more prevalent, observed and
expected relative proportions of each problem type were calculated as problems
reported increased, and straight lines fitted to observed and expected data using linear
regression. Technical details are set out at Appendix B. The results indicated that the
relative likelihood of respondents reporting domestic violence, problems ancillary to
relationship breakdown and problems relating to homelessness increased significantly
33
Consumer
Neighbours
Money / Debt
Employment
Personal injury
Housing (rent)
Housing (own)
Welfare benefits
Relat. breakdown
Divorce
Children
Clinical negligence
Domestic violence
Discrimination
Police treatment
Homelessness
Mental health
Immigration
010203040506070
Percentages of respondents
Figure 2.6
Pattern of Problems as Number Experienced Increases
Problem category
One problem
Two to five problems
Six or more problems
along with the number of problems reported. So, as illustrated by Figure 2.6, these
three problem types were relatively unlikely to have been reported in isolation.
In contrast, the relative likelihood of respondents reporting problems relating
to personal injury, clinical negligence, welfare benefits, neighbours, employment and
immigration decreased significantly as the number of problems reported increased.
Demonstrating the complexity of incidence patterns, though, this does not mean that
these problem types were necessarily more likely than others to be reported in
isolation; only that they were unlikely to be reported along with many other problems.
In fact, immigration problems were the fourth least likely type of problem to be
reported in isolation, and problems relating to welfare benefits were less likely to be
reported in isolation than was divorce.
TRIGGER PROBLEMS
It is no surprise that domestic violence was reported relatively frequently by
respondents who had experienced multiple problems. Domestic violence is
symptomatic of dysfunctional relationships and can lead directly to separation and
divorce.144 These in turn can entail disputes regarding maintenance and the division
of property. Also, the need for one or both parties to move home, along with changes
to income and expenditure patterns following separation, can bring about problems
relating to homelessness, suitability of accommodation and financial hardship.
Moreover, if there are children involved, these problems can be exacerbated by the
parent with primary care responsibilities having additional difficulties in obtaining or
retaining employment, and a consequent increased likelihood of dependency on
maintenance, child-support and welfare benefits.145 Domestic violence can also stem
from other justiciable problems. For example, losing a job can increase the likelihood
of abusing a partner.146
Again, it is no surprise that homelessness was reported relatively frequently by
respondents who had experienced multiple problems. The fact of homelessness is
itself ‘evidence of multi-dimensional problems’,147 and as well as often being
preceded by social, economic and/or mental health problems,148 some or all of which
may be justiciable, it can also increase vulnerability to further problems. Living on
the streets, for example, increases contact with the police, increases the likelihood of
physical assault, increases the likelihood of alcohol and substance abuse, reduces
34
35
employment opportunities and increases dependency on welfare benefits.
As well as domestic violence, relationship breakdown and homelessness
problems, other justiciable problem types have been suggested as being
comparatively more likely to either cause further, or follow on from earlier, problems.
For example, Paths to Justice documented how personal injury and work related ill-
health may lead to unemployment or diminish employment opportunities; especially
where a victim experiences a substantial degree of residual disability.149 This in turn
can lead to an increased risk of experiencing problems relating to welfare benefits and
debt,150 even if compensation is obtained in relation to the original injury or illness.151
Serious personal injury and work related ill-health can even lead to other members of
a victim’s household having to give up work to become carers.152 Evidently, also,
personal injury can be caused by unsafe working conditions.
The above findings in relation to vulnerable populations also suggest a broader
causal link between employment problems and money/debt and welfare benefits
problems; reflecting the financial hardship that can follow from becoming
unemployed. Indeed, all justiciable problems that lead to a reduction in income or
diminish employment opportunities would seem likely to increase vulnerability to
money/debt and welfare benefits problems. Thus, clinical negligence, mental health
and immigration problems might also be expected to do so.
To confirm the justiciable problem types most likely to act as triggers of other
problems, we used a repeated measures General Linear Model to compare the number
of justiciable problems reported as occurring before and after instances of each
individual justiciable problem type. In addition, having transformed problem orders
to a range from zero (first in sequence) to one (last in sequence), we used a median
test153 to establish whether problems were more likely to be found at the beginning or
end of reported sequences of problems.
As anticipated, marginal means from the General Linear Model showed more
problems were reported to follow than precede the three problem types relating to
dysfunctional relationships: domestic violence, divorce and relationship breakdown
problems.154 Also, divorce and relationship breakdown problems were significantly
more likely to have been reported towards the beginning than towards the end of a
sequence of justiciable problems.155 In fact, 61 per cent of divorces reported as
occurring in sequences of four or more problems were reported as being the first
problem in the sequence.156 In contrast, just 15 per cent were reported as being the last
problem.157 Domestic violence, too, often occurred at the beginning of such
sequences, with 43 per cent of instances reported as being first in a sequence.158
However, while 35 per cent of relationship breakdown problems were reported as
being the first problem in such sequences, they were more often reported towards the
middle, reflecting the greater likelihood of other family problems preceding them.159
Thus, when we used the McNemar test, a nonparametric test for two related
dichotomous variables, to establish which problem type in each pair of problem types
was more likely to occur first when both were reported, we found that divorce was
more likely to occur before relationship breakdown problems,160 and that domestic
violence was more likely to occur before divorce.161 We also found that domestic
violence, divorce and relationship breakdown problems were all more likely to be
reported as occurring before money/debt problems, reflecting the increased likelihood
of experiencing financial difficulties following the breakdown of a relationship.162
Domestic violence and divorce were also more likely to be reported as occurring
before consumer problems, although this may reflect in large part the tendency of
respondents to report only recent consumer problems. An analysis of the reliability of
autobiographical memory in relation to the different types of justiciable problems is
set out at Appendix C. In addition, divorce was more likely to be reported as occurring
before problems relating to rented housing and children; reflecting again the financial
impact of relationship breakdown, the need for sometimes speedy relocation, and the
impact of relationship breakdown on children’s education.163
Also as anticipated, more problems were reported to follow than precede
personal injury problems, though the difference was not statistically significant.164
Personal injury was, though, significantly more likely to have been reported as
occurring first than last in a sequence of four or more problems.165 However, because
of the small number of instances of some problem types and the size of the effect
observed here, it was not possible to establish any likely knock-on problem types –
although again personal injury was more likely to be reported as occurring before
consumer problems.
In addition, there was some indication that more problems followed than
preceded problems relating to homelessness, mental health and immigration, although
our findings were not significant.166
36
Finally, as already indicated, consumer problems were more likely to have
been reported to follow on from than precede other problems,167 and be reported at the
end than the beginning of a sequence of justiciable problems.168
PROBLEM CLUSTERS
Problem types do not have to cause or follow on from one other in order for there to
be a connection between them. Connections can also stem from coinciding
characteristics of vulnerability to problem types, or coinciding defining circumstances
of problem types. Thus, a connection between owned housing and consumer
problems was reported in Paths to Justice that we can now attribute to both problem
types being most likely to be experienced by those on higher incomes, living in larger
houses and with a greater number of academic qualifications. In some instances,
connections may stem from patterns of causation and vulnerability and coincidence
of defining circumstances (e.g. problems relating to children and the care and control
or financial support of children).
We used hierarchical cluster and factor analysis to establish general and
underlying connections between different problem types. Technical details are set out
at Appendix B. Then, by reference to the position of problems in sequences of
problems within individual clusters, we determined the typical ordering of problems
associated with each of the main clusters identified.
The results of the hierarchical cluster analysis are summarised in a
dendrogram set out in Figure 2.7. As anticipated – given that family type problems
appear to follow on from each other, are each most frequently reported by people aged
between 25 and 44, and all have substantially overlapping defining circumstances – a
distinct cluster of family problems is evident, comprising domestic violence, divorce,
relationship breakdown and children problems. This same cluster was also revealed
by a secondary hierarchical cluster analysis of the Paths to Justice data (Figure 1.9),
and factor analysis. In fact, almost half of all family problems were reported as having
occurred in combination with one or more other family problems.
37
38
Rescaled Distance
0 5 10 15 20
Problem Type
Divorce
Relationship breakdown
Domestic violence
Children
Welfare benefits
Thought of taking action
Consumer
Money and debt
Employment
Neighbours
Rented housing
Personal injury
Owned housing
Discrimination
Threat of action against
Homelessness
Police treatment
Action taken against
Clinical negligence
Mental health
Immigration
Figure 2.7
Dendrogram using Average Linkage (Between Groups)
As we have reported elsewhere,169 indicated above,170 and as is suggested by
Figure 2.8, domestic violence, which occurred in combination with one or more other
family problems in just over half of all instances, often lay behind the experience of
those other family problems. Thus, if domestic violence was reported in combination
with a divorce, it generally occurred first, and its existence increased substantially the
likelihood of problems ancillary to the divorce being reported.171
Outside of divorce, violence was equally likely to occur before or after
relationship breakdown problems, and if before, not as long before as in the case of
divorce; suggesting that domestic violence is tolerated for longer within marriage.
However, violence still appeared to be strongly linked with such relationship
breakdown problems, being reported in one-third of all instances.
39
The existence of domestic violence also increased substantially the likelihood
of problems relating to children being reported. So, whereas 14 per cent of
respondents who reported domestic violence also reported children related problems
(mostly concerning education)172, just 2 per cent of other respondents did so.173
Moreover, 29 per cent of respondents who reported domestic violence and problems
ancillary to the breakdown of a relationship reported children related problems,
compared to 2 per cent who reported neither.174 Children related problems were
generally experienced at the end of sequences of problems within the ‘family’ cluster.
Divorce
122
Domestic Violence No Domestic Violence
24 98
Problems Ancillary to Divorce Problems Ancillary to Divorce
None Money Children Money / None Money Children Money /
Children Children
10 3 5 6 70 6 11 11
Figure 2.8
Family Problems Relating to Divorce
Hierarchical cluster analysis also indicated a problem cluster involving
homelessness, unfair treatment by the police, and action being taken against the
respondent. Again, factor analysis revealed the same cluster. It also suggested,
however, that problems relating to rented housing form an additional element of it. In
fact, over half of all homelessness problems were reported in combination with a
rented housing problem, and the expanded cluster principally embodies a cycle of
rented housing and homelessness problems.
Rented housing problems relating to unsafe and unsatisfactory accommodation
were disproportionately reported by respondents reporting homelessness, and very
40
much characterise the route into and out of homelessness. Rented housing problems
were consequently reported at the beginning and end of sequences of problems within
this ‘homelessness’ cluster.
The inclusion of problems relating to the police in the homelessness cluster
stems from both problem types being most often experienced by young people in
receipt of welfare benefits, and the increased vulnerability to police related problems
that accompanies extended periods of time being spent on the streets and the social
problems associated with the homeless population (e.g. alcohol and drug abuse).
Possibly this latter connection explains why police related problems apparently
occurred at any stage in sequences of problems within the cluster. On the other hand,
action being taken against the respondent clearly occurred late on in sequences of
problems within the cluster. Apart from the generally grievous situation of people
who become homeless, however, it was not clear what the connection was between
these problems and others within the cluster.
A third cluster identified by hierarchical cluster analysis involved clinical
negligence, mental health and immigration problems. Again, factor analysis revealed
the same cluster. Again, though, it also suggested the inclusion of an additional
problem type, namely problems relating to welfare benefits.
As already observed, mental health problems increase vulnerability to clinical
negligence, as mental illness increases the likelihood of people receiving clinical
treatment. Indeed, 20 per cent of all respondents reporting justiciable problems
relating to mental health also reported a problem relating to clinical negligence.
However, there was relatively little overlap of the other problem types in this cluster,
apart from in relation to welfare benefits, and it is best characterised as being made
up of pairs of problems, generally including welfare benefits problems. For example,
39 per cent of immigration problems were reported in combination with a welfare
benefits problem, but not one of these pairs of problems was reported in combination
with another problem within the ‘health and welfare’ cluster.
In terms of ordering, welfare benefits problems generally occurred at the same
time as problems relating to mental health and clinical negligence, but after the onset
of immigration problems.
A fourth cluster identified by hierarchical cluster analysis involved a broad
range of problem types including those relating to welfare benefits, consumer
transactions, money/debt, employment, neighbours, rented housing, personal injury,
41
and owned housing. Within this cluster were then further more defined clusters, most
particularly a core cluster incorporating consumer, money/debt, neighbours and
employment problems, and at another level, rented housing and personal injury
problems.
Rescaled Distance
Problem Type
Divorce
Family
Children
Rented property
Miscellaneous
Employment
Money
Owned housing
Consumer
Personal injury
Renting out property
Figure 2.9
Dendrogram Derived from Secondary Analysis of Paths to Justice Data
Unlike the family cluster, the structure of which also clearly emerged from a
secondary analysis of Paths to Justice data, the structure of this broad cluster differed
somewhat to the equivalent cluster drawn from the Paths to Justice data. For example,
the dendrogram set out in Figure 2.9 suggests more of a connection between owned
housing and consumer problems, and less of a connection between consumer and
money/debt problems. This may, though, be due to the different composition of the
owned housing and money categories within the Paths to Justice dataset. For
example, owned housing problems included problems relating to neighbours in the
Paths to Justice study, and money problems included problems relating to welfare
benefits. Nevertheless, factor analysis also revealed more of a connection between
owned housing and consumer problems, although it placed consumer problems in two
distinct clusters – an option not available with hierarchical cluster analysis.
0 5 10 15 20
However, these relatively minor differences aside, a reasonable degree of
connection between the six problems that make up the core cluster just described was
evidenced by both factor analysis and (as far as is possible) secondary analysis of
Paths to Justice data.
The connections between employment and personal injury problems have
been described above, as have those between employment, personal injury and
money/debt problems. Where these problems occurred in combination, personal
injury generally came first, and money/debt problems last.
In addition, money/debt problems can lead to downward mobility in the
housing market, along with general difficulties relating to mortgage and rental
payments; thus increasing vulnerability to rented housing problems. As a result, as we
demonstrated above,175 respondents in the rented housing sector were more likely to
report money/debt problems than were others. Also, of the six problems in this
‘economic’ cluster, money/debt problems most often overlapped with consumer
problems, perhaps reflecting the overreaching economic activity of some of those
who face money/debt problems. Over one-third of respondents who reported
money/debt problems also reported a consumer problem.176 However, because of the
common experience of consumer problems, over one-fifth of respondents who
reported each of the other cluster problems also reported consumer problems; as did
significant numbers of respondents reporting non-cluster problems, with the single
exception of problems relating to homelessness.177
Reporting of neighbours problems did not overlap substantially with reporting
of any of the other economic cluster problems. However, neighbours problems are
associated with high density housing – which is more common in the rented housing
sector (leading to respondents in the sector being more vulnerable to such
problems178) – and with extended periods being spent at home, a possible
consequence of both employment and personal injury problems. Interestingly, though,
factor analysis suggested that where consumer and neighbours problems occur in
combination, it is unlikely that employment and personal injury problems will also
occur, and vice versa.
42
PROBLEM CLUSTERS AND PATTERNS OF VULNERABILITY
As with individual problems, experience of multiple problems falling within
identified problem clusters does not uniformly affect people across the population.
We therefore used binary logistic regression and analysis of covariance (ANCOVA)
to enable us to determine which population groups are most vulnerable to
experiencing multiple problems within each of the problem clusters set out above. For
the binary logistic regression, the dependent variable was based on experience of two
or more problem types within the relevant cluster. For the analysis of covariance, the
factor scores produced by the factor analysis described in the preceding section were
used as dependent variables. Technical details are set out at Appendix B.
As with each of the four types of family problem, and reflecting the impact of
such problems, lone parents were most likely to report multiple problems within the
family cluster. In contrast, respondents who were living with a partner at the time of
interview were least likely to do so. Again reflecting the impact of family problems,
respondents living in the rented housing sector and in high density housing were more
likely than others to report multiple family problems. Also, binary logistic regression
suggested that those respondents who reported long-standing illness or disability were
more likely to report family cluster problems, demonstrating again their considerable
health impact, as well as the greater vulnerability of the ill and disabled to them. In
all, 80 respondents reported multiple family cluster problems.
Reflecting the economic disadvantage of those people experiencing problems
within the homelessness cluster, respondents receiving welfare benefits were more
likely than others to report multiple homelessness cluster problems, as were
respondents without their own mechanised transport. Unsurprisingly, there was also
evidence that those living in the rented housing sector were more likely than others to
report multiple such problems, although this finding fell short of being statistically
significant. In addition, binary logistic regression suggested that respondents who
reported long-standing illness or disability were more likely than others to report
multiple problems within the homelessness cluster; perhaps in part reflecting the
‘relegation’ of those with a long-term illness or disability to poor quality housing.
Consistent with our findings relating to homelessness, binary logistic regression also
suggested that younger respondents were more likely to report multiple problems
43
44
within this cluster. In all, 30 respondents reported multiple homelessness cluster
problems.
As problems relating to clinical negligence and mental health are included
within the health and welfare cluster, it is no surprise that it too was associated with
respondents reporting long-standing ill-health or disability, as well as, according to
analysis of covariance, respondents who were unable to work because of sickness. As
the cluster includes immigration problems, it is also no surprise that black and
minority ethnic respondents were more likely than others to report multiple problems
within it. This was particularly so in relation to those in the black and ‘other’ ethnicity
categories. Evidently, as the cluster includes welfare benefits problems, respondents
in receipt of welfare benefits and living in rented housing were also more likely than
others to report multiple problems within it. Also, both binary logistic regression and
analysis of covariance indicated that those living with a partner, but without children,
were more likely than others to report multiple problems within it. In all, just 16
respondents reported multiple health and welfare cluster problems, reflecting the
rarity of the constituent problems.
Finally, reflecting the broad range of problems encompassed by it, the social
and demographic associations with the economic problem cluster were similar to
those found for the experience of justiciable problems in general. Thus, lone parents,
those living in high density housing and the rented sector, those reporting long-
standing ill-health or disability, and those on higher incomes (reflecting in large part
the incidence of consumer problems) were more likely than others to report multiple
problems within the economic cluster. However, unlike more generally, male
respondents were also more likely to report multiple problems within the economic
problem cluster. In all, 514 respondents reported multiple economic cluster
problems.179
SUMMARY
Over one-third of LSRC survey respondents reported having experienced one or more
justiciable problems during the preceding three-and-a-half years. Evidently, such
problems are common. However, the experience of problems was far from randomly
distributed across the survey population. Experience reflected not only chance, but
also underlying differences in life circumstances that entailed differences in
vulnerability to problems. In general terms, those who reported long-standing ill-
health or disability, lone parents, those living in the rented housing sector and in high
density housing, those who were unemployed and on very low incomes, and those
aged between 25 and 44 were most likely to report problems. Thus, although there
was also a tendency for those on very high incomes to report problems at higher than
average rates, and although there were instances of problems being reported by
respondents from all walks of life, it is clear that ‘socially excluded’ groups are
particularly vulnerable to experiencing justiciable problems. This was starkly
illustrated by the fact that more than four-fifths of temporary accommodation survey
respondents reported one or more problems during the same three-and-a-half years
time period.
Of course, the reported incidence of individual problem types, and the
population groups most vulnerable to them varied greatly. So, common problems,
such as those that arose from consumer transactions, arose from ‘defining’
circumstances routinely experienced across the adult population. In contrast, rare
problems, such as those that arose from a change of country of abode, residence status
or citizenship, arose from defining circumstances far from the routine. Those who
most often experienced the ‘defining’ circumstances of individual problem types
were, all else being equal, also most vulnerable to experiencing the problems
themselves. However, all else was not always equal. Physical make-up, experience,
resources and disposition were also observed to influence patterns of vulnerability.
Age was found to be a significant influence in predicting all problem types
except those relating to employment, owned housing, personal injury and clinical
negligence. In addition, gender was found to be a significant influence in predicting
problems relating to domestic violence, clinical negligence and unfair treatment by
the police, and ethnicity was found to be a significant influence in predicting
problems relating to divorce, discrimination and immigration.
Also, aspects of respondents’ economic circumstances had a significant
influence in predicting all problem types except those relating to divorce and
domestic violence. However, unlike age, gender and ethnicity, economic
circumstances can change as a result of the experience of justiciable problems. Our
findings in this regard therefore reflect not only patterns of vulnerability to justiciable
45
46
problems, but also their economic impact. So, for example, employment problems
were most likely to be reported by the unemployed. Similarly, the type of housing in
which respondents lived and their form of tenure, both linked to economic
circumstances, had a significant influence in predicting problem types except those
relating to clinical negligence and unfair treatment by the police.
In large part indicating the impact of relationship breakdown, the type of
family in which respondents lived had a significant influence in predicting 10
problem types: neighbours, employment, rented housing, owned housing, relationship
breakdown, divorce, children, domestic violence, discrimination, and mental health.
For all but one of these problem types, many of which can constitute elements of
social exclusion, lone parent respondents were more likely than others to have
reported experiencing them. The change in personal circumstances that results from
relationship breakdown, especially for those with whom any children of the
relationship come to reside, can thus be seen to be instrumental in bringing about or
consolidating social exclusion. In addition, lone parents disproportionately reported
money/debt and welfare benefits problems, although this was not highlighted by
multivariate regression.
Lastly, respondents who reported long-standing ill-health or disability were
more likely than others to report all problem types except those relating to divorce,
children, immigration and unfair treatment by the police. Such respondents were
particularly vulnerable to a whole range of justiciable problems associated with social
exclusion. Not only did half of all the discrimination problems reported through the
LSRC survey concern disability discrimination, but ill and disabled respondents also
had a much greater tendency than others to report employment, money/debt, welfare
benefits, rented housing and homelessness problems. As well as ill-health and
disability increasing vulnerability to justiciable problems, they can also be brought
about or worsened by such problems. This is obviously so in relation to negligent
accidents, clinical negligence and domestic violence. However, there is also evidence
that housing in a state of disrepair and overcrowded households can bring about
physical and psychological ill-health, and problems relating to discrimination,
employment, debt and relationship breakdown can lead to psychological ill-health.
As respondents to the parallel survey of people living in temporary
accommodation were much more often lone parents, younger, much less
economically active and on considerably lower incomes than their LSRC survey
47
counterparts, they, unsurprisingly, reported a very different pattern of experience of
problems. This included increased rates of reporting rented housing, employment,
welfare benefits, discrimination, and immigration problems.
Reinforcing the disadvantage of those who are vulnerable to justiciable
problems, the experience of such problems has an additive effect. So, each time a
person experiences a problem they become increasingly likely to experience
additional problems. As certain population groups – including people with a long-
standing illness or disability – are more vulnerable than others to a range of justiciable
problems, and as the experience of justiciable problems can itself increase such
vulnerability – through, for example, bringing about illness or disability – the
proportion of respondents in vulnerable groups increased as the number of problems
reported increased. Also, as respondents experienced multiple problems, they became
increasingly likely to have experienced problems that play a direct role in social
exclusion. Of course, to a large extent this is simply a consequence of their
experiencing increasing numbers of problems. However, some problem types, such as
those relating to homelessness and domestic violence, became more prevalent as the
number of problems increased. In contrast, some problem types, such as those relating
to personal injury and welfare benefits, became less prevalent as the number of
problems increased.
Although the experience of problems has an additive effect, not all problem
types were associated with the same risk of additional problems being experienced.
Domestic violence, divorce, relationship breakdown, and personal injury problems,
though, all appeared more likely to trigger additional problems. This is unsurprising.
Domestic violence, for example, has been shown to be symptomatic of dysfunctional
relationships and can lead directly to separation and divorce, which, in turn, can lead
to disputes regarding maintenance and the division of property. Also, the changes in
living arrangements and economic circumstances following separation can bring
about, for example, problems relating to housing and financial hardship. Again, Paths
to Justice has documented how personal injury and work related ill-health can
diminish employment opportunities and lead to unemployment, which, in turn, can
lead to problems relating to welfare benefits and debt, even if compensation is
obtained in relation to the original injury or illness.
Of course, problem types do not have to cause or follow on from one other in
order for there to be a connection between them. Connections can also stem from
coinciding characteristics of vulnerability to problem types, or coinciding defining
circumstances of problem types. Hierarchical cluster and factor analysis identified
four principal problem clusters. The most distinct, a ‘family’ cluster, was comprised
of domestic violence, divorce, relationship breakdown and children problems. This
same cluster was also revealed by a secondary hierarchical cluster analysis of the
Paths to Justice data. A ‘homelessness’ cluster comprised problems relating to rented
housing, homelessness, unfair treatment by the police, and formal action being taken
against the respondent. A ‘health and welfare’ cluster comprised problems relating to
clinical negligence, mental health, immigration and welfare benefits. Lastly, an
‘economic’ cluster comprised problems relating to consumer transactions,
money/debt, neighbours and employment problems, and at another level, problems
relating to rented housing and personal injury.
As with individual problems, experience of multiple problems falling within
identified problem clusters is not randomly distributed. Respondents who reported
long-standing illness or disability were more likely to report multiple problems within
all four clusters. Lone parents, those living in the rented housing sector and those
living in high density housing were also more likely than others to report multiple
problems within the family cluster. Respondents receiving welfare benefits, those
without their own mechanised transport, and younger respondents were also more
likely than others to report multiple problems within the homelessness cluster. Black
and minority ethnic respondents, those in receipt of welfare benefits, those living in
rented housing, and those living with a partner, but without children were also more
likely to report multiple problems within the health and welfare cluster. Finally, lone
parents, those living in high density housing and the rented sector, those reporting
long-standing ill-health or disability, and those on higher incomes (reflecting in large
part the incidence of consumer problems) were more likely than others to report
multiple problems within the economic cluster.
48
3
Inaction and Action:
Responses to Justiciable Problems
This chapter sets out the ways in which people deal with justiciable problems. Using
information obtained from screen interviews, it highlights the sense of powerlessness
and helplessness often experienced by people who face such problems, and examines
the different rates of action and use of advice services associated with different
problem types and population groups. As part of this explanation, it reveals how
people’s problem resolution strategies can become entrenched. Using information
obtained from main interviews, the chapter then details the many sources from which
people attempt to obtain advice, the difficulties they experience in doing so, and the
nature of the advice and any additional help received by those who are successful in
doing so. Through this, it illustrates how people’s choices of advisers, although often
logical and apposite, also can be desperate and unpromising. It also illustrates the
phenomenon of referral fatigue, whereby the more times people are referred on to
another service by an adviser, the less likely they become to act on a referral.
INACTION AND ACTION
Not everyone who experiences a justiciable problem will take action to resolve it. As
Felstiner, Abel and Sarat depicted in their influential model of disputing behaviour,
before action can be taken a problem must be recognised as such.180 People faced with
the constituent elements of a justiciable problem will not always regard them as
problematic. As suggested in the preceding chapter, sensitivity as well as vulnerability
to problems varies between differently constituted population groups. People’s
perceptions of specific sets of circumstances are influenced by, for example, their
familiarity with them, understanding of them, and general expectations. These, in
turn, are influenced by, for example, their age, education, economic situation and
49
50
physical, social and cultural environment. So, for instance, as expectations of
standards of behaviour vary between people of different ages, young people are less
likely to regard ‘neighbour nuisance’ as problematic.181 Also, as physical strength and
the experience of physical violence vary between people of different gender, men are
less likely to regard an assault by a partner as upsetting or frightening, and
consequently as problematic.182
As the Hughes Commission noted, if the constituent elements of a justiciable
problem are regarded as problematic, action to resolve it will still be unlikely if it is
believed that nothing can be done to effect a satisfactory resolution.183 Of course, as
was observed in Paths to Justice, people who take no action to resolve a problem
because they think nothing can be done make this judgment without the benefit of
advice and, therefore, without the benefit of an opportunity to identify solutions they
are not personally aware of.184 As few people are familiar with the complexities of the
framework of civil law that bears on everyday life, the existence of unidentified
solutions is no doubt commonplace. Thus, the Hughes Commission advocated that
education and the provision of general information regarding rights and obligations
and the means available to effect them is essential to the promotion of just solutions
to justiciable problems.
Furthermore, even if people believe that something can be done to resolve a
problem, action may yet not be taken because of concerns about the physical,
psychological, economic or social consequences of doing so;185 such inaction perhaps
constituting a simple personal preference, reflecting the inherent cost of taking action,
or, alternatively, perhaps reflecting structural failings in the civil justice infrastructure.
In all, no action was taken in relation to 19 per cent of problems reported
through the LSRC survey. The most common reason provided was that respondents
‘did not think anything could be done’ (31 per cent; 6 per cent of problems overall),186
supporting findings elsewhere and confirming a ‘profound need for knowledge …
about obligations, rights, remedies, and procedures’ for resolving justiciable
problems.187 Other common reasons included problems not having been sufficiently
important to warrant action (12 per cent188), there having been no ‘dispute’ and
nobody who was regarded as having been in the wrong (10 per cent189),190 action
having become unnecessary as a result of activity on the part of others (9 per cent191),
and the potential damage action might have caused to an on-going relationship (8 per
cent192).
Concerns about the potential cost of action were reported as a reason for
inaction on only relatively few occasions (4 per cent193); as were concerns about the
time it might take to reach a resolution (6 per cent194). In fact, being ‘scared to do
anything’ was more often a reason for inaction than were concerns about cost (6 per
cent195; 1 per cent of problems overall).
Just over half of those respondents who took no action to resolve problems
discussed their situation with friends and relatives, particularly partners, before
reaching a final decision on the matter.196 However, 32 per cent of friends and
relatives who had been consulted had actually recommended action be taken. In
contrast, just 4 per cent had recommended no action be taken. Respondents’ reasons
for inaction in the face of a contrary recommendation by friends or relatives were
similar to reasons in general, but with the virtual absence of lack of importance or
dispute. This suggests that problems were more likely to be discussed if there was a
greater interest in action being taken. It also suggests that support in taking action is
sometimes important in overcoming doubts about its utility.
In Paths to Justice it was commented that the reasons for failure to take action
provided by ‘lumpers’197 conveyed, on the whole, ‘a rather negative and powerless
quality.’198 We observed this to be most acute in respect of those problems in relation
to which respondents reported combinations of reasons for not acting. For example a
profound sense of powerlessness and helplessness was indicated by respondents who
reported that they did not act because they were both scared to do so and believed that,
in any event, nothing could be done (1 per cent) – particularly as their problems
appeared serious and chronic (relating to their employment, relationships, or living
environment).
Consistent with findings elsewhere, reasons for inaction varied significantly
by problem type.199 As is suggested by Figure 3.1, on examining standardised Pearson
residuals to assess the source of the overall significance,200 we found that respondents
who did not act were most likely to believe nothing could be done to resolve mental
health (64 per cent201) and discrimination (52 per cent202) problems, and least likely to
believe nothing could be done to resolve personal injury problems (23 per cent203);
perhaps reflecting the proliferation of advertising of no-win no-fee personal injury
claim services. Respondents were, though, most likely to regard personal injury
problems (22 per cent204) as not being sufficiently important to warrant action, and
least likely to regard divorce (0 per cent205) in such a manner. They were also most
51
likely to regard there as having been no dispute involved in personal injury problems
(36 per cent206), although in relation to this reasoning divorce was also more likely
than other problem types to be regarded similarly (47 per cent207). Problems relating
to neighbours (2 per cent208), consumer transactions (3 per cent209) and rented housing
(0 per cent210) were least likely to have been regarded as involving no dispute.
Those who took no action in relation to divorce were, additionally, more likely
than others to report action as unnecessary as a result of activity on the part of others
(26 per cent211), as were those who took no action to resolve welfare benefits problems
(20 per cent212). Conversely, those who took no action to resolve problems relating to
domestic violence were least likely to point to activity on the part of others (0 per
cent213), reflecting the intransigent nature of such problems.
Respondents who took no action in relation to problems relating to unfair
treatment by the police (28 per cent214) and neighbours (18 per cent215) were most
52
Mental health
Discrimination
Housing (rent)
Welfare benefits
Employment
Clinical negligence
Relat. breakdown
Money / Debt
Consumer
Domestic violence
Police treatment
Neighbours
Personal injury
Divorce
0 10 2030 40506070
Percentages of respondents who did nothing
Figure 3.1
Reported Reasons for doing Nothing to Resolve a Problem
Problem category
Nothing could be done
Insufficient importance
No dispute
Others taking action
Preserve relationship
Scared to act
Would take too long
Cost
likely to express concerns about the damage that action might have caused to on-
going relationships; relationships that were doubtless often unsatisfactory to start
with. Those who took no action in relation to money/debt problems were least likely
to express such concerns (2 per cent216).
Those who took no action to resolve problems relating to neighbours (14 per
cent217), along with those who took no action in relation to domestic violence (24 per
cent218), were also most likely to report that they had been scared to act.
Unsurprisingly, those who took no action to resolve consumer problems were least
likely to do so (1 per cent219).
Concerns about the time that it can take to resolve problems were most likely
to be reported by those who took no action to resolve consumer (16 per cent220) and
money/debt problems (10 per cent221), and least likely to be reported by those who
took no action in relation to personal injuries (0 per cent222).
Lastly, concerns about the cost of action were most likely to be reported by
those who did nothing to resolve problems ancillary to relationship breakdown (18
per cent223), and least likely to be reported by respondents who took no action to
resolve employment problems (0 per cent224). As will become clear below, cost
concerns in relation to problems ancillary to relationship breakdown reflect a general
perception that such problems should be dealt with through a solicitor. Respondents
who considered getting advice from a solicitor, but did not go on to do so, cited cost
concerns on many more occasions than those who considered getting advice from
other types of adviser, but did not go on to do so.225
PATTERNS OF INACTION
As with the reasons given for taking no action to resolve problems, the proportion of
occasions on which no action was taken varied by problem type. In addition, it varied
between differently constituted population groups. We used binary logistic regression
to test the influence of problem type, previously used problem resolution strategies,
and a range of social and demographic predictors on the likelihood of respondents
having taken action to resolve a problem. Technical details are set out at Appendix B.
Problem type was the most influential predictor. Those faced with problems relating
to mental health or clinical negligence were much less likely than others to take action
53
to resolve them;226 a legacy of the common belief that nothing could be done to help,
exacerbated by the frequent and substantial imbalance of knowledge, standing227 and
institutional support between the parties. So, as is shown in Figure 3.2, although
action was taken to deal with 81 per cent of problems overall, inaction was more
common than action for mental health and clinical negligence problems.
Those who faced problems relating to unfair treatment by the police were also
less likely than others to act to resolve them (57 per cent), again in part a consequence
of the above imbalances. Likewise, those who experienced domestic violence were
less likely than others to take action (64 per cent).228 Here, though, physical, economic
and emotional imbalances between the parties would likely have been of greater
54
Mental health
Clinical negligence
Police treatment
Personal injury
Domestic violence
Discrimination
Employment
Neighbours
Housing (rent)
Money / Debt
Divorce
Consumer
Welfare benefits
Relat. breakdown
Children
Housing (own)
Homelessness
Immigration
0 1020 30405060
Percentages of problems
Figure 3.2
Percentage of Problems Where No Action Was Taken
Problem category
55
importance. Lastly, those faced with personal injury problems were less likely than
others to take action (61 per cent), although, as is clear from above, this was
principally a result of these problems being much more often regarded as
insufficiently important to warrant action or as involving no dispute.229
Respondents faced with problems relating to homelessness were most likely to
take action to deal with them. In fact, just one such respondent took no action. Those
faced with family related problems, other than domestic violence, were also more
likely than others to act (89 per cent), as were those faced with problems relating to
owned housing (94 per cent), welfare benefits (89 per cent) and consumer
transactions (86 per cent).230
Beyond problem type, it appeared that those respondents who were in work,
particularly the self-employed, were less likely than others to act to resolve problems,
perhaps indicating difficulties faced in making time available to do so. Also, as we
explain below, many advice services operate only during normal working hours,
making them more difficult to access for those who work such hours.
The relationship between economic circumstances and inaction was, though,
complex. For example, while those in work were less likely than others to act, those
who owned their own home were more likely than others to act. Also, if tenure was
removed from the analysis, then, as was reported in both Paths to Justice and Paths
to Justice Scotland, those on higher incomes were seen to be more likely than others
to act.231 So, while working seems to make it more difficult for people to act to resolve
problems, this difficulty appears to be somewhat offset by greater economic
independence. Those in low income occupations, therefore, are particularly unlikely
to take action to resolve problems.
Gender and ethnicity also influenced the likelihood of respondents having
taken action to resolve problems. Male respondents were less likely than female
respondents to have done so. So, whereas 21 per cent of men facing problems took no
action to resolve them, the same was true of only 17 per cent of women. Also, black
and minority ethnic respondents were less likely than white respondents to have taken
action to resolve problems. Accordingly, whereas 23 per cent of black and minority
ethnic respondents facing problems took no action, the same was true of slightly less
than 19 per cent of white respondents. Among black and minority ethnic respondents,
Asian respondents were the least likely to take action, taking no action on 27 per cent
56
of occasions, compared to just 14 per cent of occasions for ‘other’ minority ethnic
respondents.232
Although there was some indication that black and minority ethnic
respondents who did not act were more likely than their white counterparts to think
that nothing could be done to help them (39 per cent, compared to 31 per cent), this
finding was not statistically significant.233 There was, though, evidence of significant
differences between black and minority ethnic and white respondents in the frequency
of their reporting having been scared to act, with black and minority ethnic
respondents having done so more often.234
PATTERNS OF ACTION
When action was taken to resolve justiciable problems, 63 per cent of respondents (51
per cent overall) reported that they sought formal advice to assist them in the
resolution process. The remainder handled their problems alone, without ever seeking
such advice (37 per cent; 30 per cent overall). In handling problems alone, these
respondents most often simply talked or wrote to ‘the other side’ involved in a
dispute, and attempted to negotiate a solution.235 Of course, the fact they did not seek
formal advice did not mean they sought no information or support at all in taking
action. On one-twelfth of occasions they obtained information from a self-help guide
(one-sixth) and/or an internet site (one-seventh), and on one-third of occasions they
discussed their situation with friends or relatives prior to or whilst acting.236
A small number of respondents who handled their problem alone went beyond
the normal practice of negotiating direct with ‘the other side’ and commenced
proceedings in a court or tribunal (2 per cent), though they did so far less often than
those who had sought formal advice in dealing with problems (11 per cent).237 The
extent to which this difference is a consequence of the types of problems they faced,
the preferred methods of advice providers, or the relative seriousness of problems is
discussed below.238
Also, on a few occasions those who handled problems alone utilised an
Ombudsman or a mediation service (2 per cent and 1 per cent respectively). Again,
though, this was less often than those who sought advice (3 per cent and 7 per cent
respectively).239
57
Again, we used binary logistic regression to test the influence of problem type,
previously used problem resolution strategies, and a range of social and demographic
predictors on the likelihood of respondents who took action to deal with problems
having sought advice while doing so. Technical details are set out at Appendix B.
Problem type was again found to be the most influential predictor. However,
different problem types were associated with seeking advice, as compared to simply
taking action. So, for example, whereas those faced with consumer problems were
more likely than others to take action to resolve them, they were less likely than others
to seek advice once they took action. As is shown in Figure 3.3, those who took action
to resolve consumer problems sought advice less often than they handled problems
alone. Only those who took action to deal with problems relating to mental health
were less likely to seek advice (22 per cent). Conversely, whereas those faced with
problems relating to domestic violence or personal injury were less likely than others
to take action in the first instance, they were more likely than others to seek advice
once they did (88 per cent and 84 per cent, respectively).
Also, those who took action to resolve money/debt problems were less likely
than others to seek advice (49 per cent), and those who took action in relation to
problems relating to homelessness (94 per cent), owned housing (79 per cent), divorce
(96 per cent) or problems ancillary to relationship breakdown (87 per cent) were more
likely than others to seek advice.240 In addition, there was evidence that respondents
who took action to resolve rented housing problems were more likely to seek advice
if the problem concerned unsafe or unsuitable accommodation, which was shown in
the last chapter to be a defining element of the homelessness problem cluster.241
Unsurprisingly, owing to constraints on their time, respondents in full-time
employment, as well as having been less likely than others to have acted to resolve
problems, were also less likely than others to have sought advice when they did act
(57 per cent). However, this was not the case in relation to those who were in part-
time employment, and the self-employed were actually the most likely to seek advice
(72 per cent). Also contrary to our findings in relation to bare action and inaction,
those living in the rented sector appeared more likely than others to have sought
advice when they acted.
In addition, those with no academic qualifications were more likely than others
to have sought advice when they acted, perhaps indicating a lesser confidence as to
the options available to them. A closer examination of qualifications revealed that
those with a degree were the least likely to have sought advice.242
Lastly, it was evident that respondents were more likely to handle problems
alone if they had previously done so. Thus, whereas 53 per cent of those who had
previously handled a problem alone did so in relation to the problem in question, the
same was true of just 36 per cent of others.243
There were no significant differences in the likelihood of advice being sought
by those who took action to deal with problems between respondents on different
58
Mental health
Consumer
Money / Debt
Clinical negligence
Housing (rent)
Discrimination
Neighbours
Police treatment
Employment
Welfare benefits
Children
Housing (own)
Personal injury
Immigration
Relat. breakdown
Domestic violence
Homelessness
Divorce
0 20406080
Percentages of problems
Figure 3.3
Percentage of Problems Where No Advice Was Sought
Despite Action Having Been Taken
Problem category
59
incomes, white and black and minority ethnic respondents, or female and male
respondents.
Overall, though, female respondents who acted to resolve problems sought
advice more often than their male counterparts (65 per cent and 60 per cent
respectively).244 Also, if those who sought advice were compared to those who either
handled their problems alone or took no action to deal with them, then there was a
significant difference between the strategies adopted by women and men.245 Our
findings therefore reflect those in the health field, where women appear more likely
than men to utilise medical services – at least from adolescence onwards.246
White and black and minority ethnic respondents who acted to resolve
problems sought advice at almost identical rates.247 Again, though, there was a more
pronounced difference when respondents who sought advice were compared to those
who either handled their problems alone or took no action to deal with them. Overall,
white respondents who had experienced problems sought advice more often than
black and minority ethnic respondents (51 per cent and 48 per cent respectively).
However, this finding was not significant. Again, though, it reflects findings in the
health field, where white people appear more likely than black and minority ethnic
people to utilise medical services.248 In England this has been found to be especially
so where black and minority ethnic people are unable to speak English,249 and it also
appears that culturally rigid health care services act as a barrier to health care.250 Some
studies of advice services, too, have highlighted the need for translation services and
cultural empathy to lower barriers to comprehensive service provision, and there is
evidence that some black and minority ethnic people consider that ‘seeing an adviser
from another cultural identity would cause difficulties’.251
ADVICE AND SERIOUSNESS
In addition to the above, there was evidence that the likelihood of respondents having
sought advice increased along with the seriousness of the problems they faced.
Respondents were, for example, more likely to describe problems in relation to which
advice was sought as having been ‘very important to sort out’ (86 per cent compared
to 75 per cent).252 Also, as is illustrated in Figure 3.4, when respondents’ objectives in
acting concerned money, the likelihood of them having sought advice increased along
60
with the amount.253 So, whereas advice was obtained in relation to just 56 per cent of