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In England and Wales less than half of the adult population report that they have a will, with similarly low numbers found in other jurisdictions. Dying intestate can have profound implications on the family relationships, housing security, finances, employment, health and welfare of those who are left behind. Social policy initiatives designed to educate the public on the implications of intestacy offer a potential solution but remain difficult to evaluate. This article explores the results of a public legal education experiment embedded in a longitudinal panel survey. The experiment was designed to explore: (1) the impact of information provision on will creation; and, (2) how ‘opportunistic experiments’ embedded in longitudinal surveys might support public legal education (PLE) evaluation. Whilst the impact of the information intervention in this study was not found to be statistically significant, the methodology points to the possibility of testing more bespoke and substantial initiatives in the future.
As an increasing number of Government services have moved away from traditional modes of provision to online formats, there has been a corresponding need to ensure greater access to the internet. Although older people (those over 60) are least likely of all age groups to have access to the internet in their homes, the internet holds much potential as an information and advice resource for those older people who may find it difficult to access advice over the telephone or in person. Realising this potential extends beyond issues of physical access; consideration must necessarily be given to issues of internet literacy and the inclination of this cohort to utilise what may be new and unfamiliar technology. This paper examines these matters in the context of the resolution of everyday problems with a legal dimension. Looking first at the use of the internet for information and advice seeking related to such problems, we find that those aged over 60 demonstrate the least use of the internet for problems with a legal dimension. Simultaneously, those aged over 60 are also the group with the lowest level of home access – a particular issue given that for over 60-year-olds, home access is a far stronger determinant of internet use for problems than it is for other age groups. Examining use of the internet for advice seeking over the last decade, findings demonstrate the existence of a general increase in use amongst all age groups over time, albeit with a lower rate of growth amongst those currently over 60. As an indication of future growth, this will have implications for the provision of services. Whilst the ‘young old’ will utilise the internet to a greater degree and will require websites which are tailored to their needs, those individuals at the older end of the age spectrum may best be served by continued access to face-to-face or outreach advice. The implications these findings pose for policy makers in setting priorities in the remit of online service provision are discussed, with results having particular relevance in England and Wales given planned changes to civil legal aid.
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.
The 2008 recession presents a double challenge to legal aid. Unemployment extends legal aid eligibility. It is also associated with increased vulnerability to problems involving legal rights, feeding demand for legal services. Job loss, as distinct from unemployment, might be expected to increase vulnerability further still. In this paper, we set out findings from a first analysis of the relationship between job loss and the experience of rights problems. In the context of the current recession, we set out the likely scale of the recession's impact on the incidence of rights problems and demand for legal (and legal aid) services.
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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