Estimating the Size And Nature of The Civil Legal Advice Sector in England and Wales
Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA) March 2006
The DCA has published this report by Matrix Research and Consultancy, who are previously best known for their Independent Review of the Community Legal Service, published in 2004.
At the DCA's request Matrix have tried to estimate the size and nature of the civil legal advice sector in England and Wales.
Their complex methodology involves a mixture of national data and data derived from three case studies. They looked at the amount of time spent by whole time equivalent [WTE] staff providing advice and the cost of doing so. They defined advice mainly by distinguishing it from information, and defined advice providers as organisations or individuals who provide 'some form of advisory service relating to civil legal problems, including referral and signposting, to members of the public.'
Overall, they suggest that the size of the market is probably in the range £5.06 billion - £6.84 billion, with a breakdown between types of providers as follows:
- Local support and resource groups – 42.7%
- Solicitors in private practice – 25.7%
- National advice providers (e.g. Citizens Advice, Shelter, Age Concern) – 20.2%
- Others – 11.4%
They suggest that the sector
- Contains between 27,400 and 50,400 organisations
- Employing between 64,800 and 110,800 WTE paid staff and volunteers
- Including between 17,100 and 28,100 WTE volunteers
They suggest that local authority departments account for a small proportion of the advice sector, that registered social landlords and similar organisations account for around 2%, and that national helplines could account for as much as 12% of the overall figure.
This is an ambitious piece of work. The methodology is interesting but may be open to question. The specific findings in relation to local authority departments and registered social landlords have been queried in Causes of Action (2nd edition) but it may be that Matrix and the LSRC are measuring different things. The report raises important questions about the quality of advice provided by local support and resource groups, the lack of referrals within the advice sector, and what the focus of advice provision should be. Above all, however, it represents the first attempt to map the whole of the advice sector, and the implications of its main findings deserve serious consideration.
You can find the report at: www.dca.gov.uk/research/2006/04_2006.htm