ASA questions the evidence for the CLS Strategy
The LSC claims that its CLS strategy is based on evidence – especially the findings reported by the Legal Services Research Centre as Causes of Action. ASA has published a new report that questions whether the strategy is supported by Causes of Action or the recent report on "clusters" A trouble shared.
The CLS strategy proposes a radical restructuring of legal advice services and the proposals seem to be based on four arguments:
- That the need for legal advice is essentially the same everywhere
- That too many people fail to get advice
- That people, especially those with social welfare law problems, do not experience single problems as much as clusters of problems
- That referrals do not work.
However, ASA argues that the research evidence suggests that:
- Need varies significantly between different geographical areas, for reasons that remain unclear. Further research is needed.
- It is not apparent that too many people fail to get advice. Between 2001 and 2004 the proportion of people with problems who obtained advice increased significantly.
- Whether people seek, and obtain, advice depends largely on the nature of the problem, the availability of advice, and the identity of the first adviser consulted.
- A key problem concerns the availability of advice in relation to particular types of problems, notably those concerning neighbours, rented housing and unfair police treatment. Therefore the LSC should increase the availability and profile of advice in these areas.
- The evidence suggests that the LSC should target services at people living in temporary accommodation.
- There is evidence that people experience "clusters" of problems, but the evidence is not clear-cut and the implications for legal advice services are not clear.
- Causes of Action does refer to "referral fatigue". However it does not distinguish between different types of problems, nor does it tell us why referrals failed. This makes it difficult to assess whether the CLS strategy is likely to make a real difference.
The variation in success rates between different advisers suggests that a major part of the problem arises because people seek help from inappropriate sources. It does not suggest that referrals within the legal advice sector do not work.
The paper concludes that existing reports provide only limited support for the CLS strategy and that more research should be carried out before the LSC goes ahead with the radical restructuring of legal services that is proposed.
Read the full report - CLS Strategy - is this really evidence based policy making?