LSB launches research into vulnerable consumers’ experience of legal services


The Legal Services Board has today launched research into the experiences of consumers in vulnerable circumstances when they use legal service.

Focusing specifically on people with dementia and mental health problems (and their carers) this research set out to explore their experiences of accessing legal services and to identify what can be done to improve accessibility, service experience and outcomes.

This research is published at a time when a study in the British Medical Journal last week by University College London and the University of Liverpool suggests more than 1.2 million people in England and Wales will be living with dementia by 2040.

Neil Buckley, LSB Chief Executive remarking on the research said:

“This qualitative research improves our understanding of how consumers with mental health problems and dementia (and those caring for them) experience legal services.
Sometimes small actions can make a big difference to consumers, particularly those who are vulnerable. When providers take simple practical steps this can a big difference to the consumer experience.
Consumers can help too, for example by telling their lawyer if there are things they could do that would help make things easier for them.”

David Sinclair of Solicitors for the Elderly said:

“Solicitors for the Elderly welcomes the report’s findings, which throws light on an important part of the legal sector. Our accreditation is designed to ensure professionals have a wealth of experience and training to help put older and vulnerable people at ease when dealing with complex legal issues, and we encourage any increased awareness and improvement of accessibility for these consumers.”

Amit Popat, Head of Equality and Access to Justice, Bar Standards Board said:

“Bar Standards Board Head of Equality and Access to Justice, Amit Popat said: “We welcome this important piece of research by the Legal Services Board. As one of the frontline legal regulators, our focus is on helping to protect vulnerable members of our society and to help them access legal services when they need them. We will study carefully the findings of this research amongst people with dementia and mental health problems and assess where we might use it to inform our own regulations in relation to access to barristers.”

ENDS

For further information, please contact the LSB’s Communications Manager, Vincent McGovern (020 7271 0068).

Notes for editors:

  1. The key findings from this vulnerable consumers’ experience of legal services research are:

Mental Health Problems

  • Free initial services from third sector and regulated providers are valued. Reasons include affordability, getting initial advice on options and poor past experience of legal advice.
  • Customer support needs depend on the severity of problems, but include extra time for individuals to express themselves, extra communication and increased reassurance.
  • It is important to this group to feel listened to and understood, have services adapted to support them, have continuity of personnel and costs transparency.
  • Customer support needs depend on the severity of problems, but include extra time for individuals to express themselves, extra communication and increased reassurance.
  • It is important to this group to feel listened to and understood, have services adapted to support them, have continuity of personnel and costs transparency.

Dementia

  • There is a clear cluster of legal needs: wills, power of attorney and property issues.
  • Those with early stage symptoms (e.g. less successful dealing with information) may not flag their needs in advance. Carers for those with later stage symptoms (e.g. confusion, memory loss and discomfort in unfamiliar surroundings) are more likely to.
  • This group welcomes initial phone contact to discuss service adaptations; clear information before meeting on the legal issue, options and costs; home visits; ‘dementia friendly’ services (e.g. plain English, patience and respect); and a clear meeting record.
  1. The experience of consumers in vulnerable circumstances with different legal services providers research is available here:
  1. A consumer advice sheet to accompany each report has been produced:
  1. Two helpful animations have also been produced to assist:
  1. one page summary of both research notes is also available.
  2. The Legal Services Act 2007 (the Act) created the LSB as a new regulator with responsibility for overseeing the regulation of legal services in England and Wales. The new regulatory regime became active on 1 January 2010.
  1. The LSB oversees nine approved regulators, which in turn regulate individual legal practitioners. The approved regulators, designated under Part 1 of Schedule 4 of the 2007 Act, are the Law Society, the Bar Council, the Master of the Faculties, the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, the Council for Licensed Conveyancers, the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys, the Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys and the Association of Costs Lawyers. They have subsequently being joined as an approved regulator by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.In addition, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants are listed as approved regulators in relation only to reserved probate activities.
  2. As at 1 April 2017, the legal profession in England and Wales comprised 148,690 solicitors, 15,281 barristers, 6,809 chartered legal executives and 5,958 other individuals operating in other areas of the legal profession such as conveyancing. The UK legal sector turnover was £31 billion per annum (2016) which is up 19% in cash terms since 2012. For more information see here.

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