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Research Report: The legal needs of people with chronic illness or disability, Justice issues paper 11
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The legal needs of people with chronic illness or disability, Justice issues paper 11  ( 2009 )  Cite this report

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NSW Legal Needs Survey

As noted above, in their monograph entitled Justice made to measure: NSW Legal Needs Survey in disadvantaged areas, Coumarelos et al. (2006) reported on a legal needs survey conducted in 2003 in six local government areas of NSW. The survey was administered via telephone interviews to 2431 residents aged 15 years or over. The six areas covered geographically diverse areas of NSW, had high risk scores for socioeconomic disadvantage, and comprised urban, rural and remote areas.4

The survey measured 101 different ‘legal events’, that is, events that have the potential for legal resolution (see Appendix 1).5 These legal events were categorised into the following 15 groups:

  • 11 groups of civil law events — accident/injury, business, consumer, credit/debt, education, employment, government, health, housing, human rights and wills/estates
  • three groups of criminal law events — domestic violence, general crime and traffic offences
  • one group of family law events.

Of the 2431 participants surveyed, 508 or 20.9 per cent reported that they had one or more chronic illnesses or disabilities.6 Coumarelos et al. (2006) found that these 508 participants with a chronic illness or disability, when compared with other participants, had:
  • increased vulnerability to a wide range of legal events
  • similar rates of seeking help for their legal events
  • reduced rates of resolving their legal events.

Given their high incidence rate and low resolution rate, Coumarelos et al. (2006) argued that meeting the legal needs of this group should be a top priority in legal service provision.


Coumarelos, C & Wei, Z 2009, The legal needs of people with different types of chronic illness or disability, Justice issues paper 11, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney