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Rights problems such as debt, employment, welfare benefits and family problems are widespread. They are problems of everyday life, affecting many people and many aspects of people's lives and are now well documented. In contrast, there has been little research on the role of family and friends when experiencing a problem and seeking advice. Drawing on comprehensive qualitative research, this article explores how people seeking advice for their rights problems rely on family and friends for help in the advice-seeking process. The research shows that help lies on a continuum from encouraging people to seek advice to assistance with the tasks necessary for problem resolution. The implications of this for service design are considered.
Previous studies have highlighted the paucity of knowledge possessed by people in a number of jurisdictions with regard to specific legal issues and processes, yet what has not been fully understood is the practical impact of this lack of knowledge. This paper looks at how knowledge of rights affects the resolution of civil justice problems. Data were extracted from a large-scale survey of adults’ experience of rights problems throughout England and Wales (10,537 adult respondents). The results demonstrated that most individuals were not aware of their rights at the time the problem occurred (64.8 per cent). Knowledge was shown to be poorest amongst those with mental illness, those without higher qualifications and those renting their homes. Problems where knowledge was poor included clinical negligence, welfare benefits and neighbours issues. Knowledge did not appear to be related to a particular problem-solving strategy but had an impact on the fulfilment of objectives and the obtaining of advice. Our findings depart from existing literature by indicating that knowledge of rights alone is not associated with legal self-sufficiency in terms of a reduced dependence upon legal advice services. We find, however, that individuals, with knowledge of rights, experience better outcomes when they opt to handle their problem alone. Accordingly, the presence or absence of knowledge of rights may be a useful proxy measure of legal advice need and relevant to the process of legal aid rationing. Our findings highlight the role that Public Legal Education (PLE) (both ‘rights-based education’ and ‘just-in-time/self-help’) may play in disposing of less complex problems, while presenting a strong case for the continued availability of free legal advice services. The research is discussed in the context of the recently announced legal aid reforms in England and Wales and their anticipated impact.
Over recent years there has been increasing policy concern in the UK about whether citizens are equipped with sufficient legal ‘know-how’. In January 2006, the Department for Constitutional Affairs, now Ministry of Justice, announced a Public Legal Education and Support Task Force to develop and promote the case for a national strategy. This comes after UK government strategies have recently been developed for both consumer education and financial capability. Drawing on empirical data, this article explores whether there is indeed a lack of awareness and confidence among the population of England and Wales in regard to legal issues. The results from the English and Welsh Civil and Social Justice Survey, a large-scale face-to-face survey representative of the population, illustrate the case for targeted as well as general public legal education initiatives.
This paper examines social and demographic predictors of debt problems, whether debt problems tend to occur in combination with other problems and which people tend to experience long- rather than short-term debt. Data were extracted from a survey of 5,611 adults' experiences of civil justice problems, throughout England and Wales. Being in receipt of benefits and long-term illness or disability were the strongest predictors of debt, with long-term ill or disabled respondents also being more susceptible to long-term debt. We highlight the importance of advice interventions that recognise the link between civil justice problems and health, illness or disability.
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