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Research Report: Legal Australia-Wide Survey: Legal need in Australia
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Legal Australia-Wide Survey: Legal need in Australia  ( 2012 )  Cite this report

3. Prevalence of legal problems



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Prevalence of substantial legal problems


For each specific type of legal problem reported, the respondent rated the problem’s severity in terms of its impact on their everyday life, choosing from ‘none’, ‘slight’, ‘moderate’ and ‘severe’ impact. When the respondent reported two or more instances of the same specific type of problem, they were asked to rate the severity of only the worst of these problems.

For convenience, throughout this report, problems rated as having no impact or only a slight impact on everyday life are referred to as ‘minor problems’, and problems rated as having a moderate or severe impact on everyday life are referred to as ‘substantial problems’.

Figure 3.2 presents the number of respondents who experienced substantial problems. The 10 289 Australian respondents who experienced legal problems comprised 5637 respondents who had at least one substantial problem and 4652 respondents whose worst (or sole) problem was only minor.(7) The 5637 respondents with a substantial legal problem represented 27.2 per cent of the entire sample of 20 716 respondents. Translating this number of respondents with a substantial problem into population numbers, it is estimated that 4 664 000 Australian people aged 15 years or over experience a substantial legal problem within a 12-month period.(8)

Figure 3.2: Prevalence of substantial legal problems, Australia

Note: N=20 716 respondents


Table 3.3 displays the number of Australian respondents with substantial problems broken down by problem group and problem subgroup (see first data column). The number of respondents with a substantial problem of a particular type (i.e. from a particular problem group or problem subgroup) is expressed both as a percentage of the respondents who experienced that problem type (see second data column) and as a percentage of the entire sample (see third data column). For example, 229 respondents indicated that they had experienced an accidents problem that was substantial. These 229 respondents represented 14.3 per cent of the 1605 respondents who had experienced an accidents problem and 1.1 per cent of the entire Australian sample of 20 716 respondents.

Table 3.3: Prevalence of substantial legal problems by problem group and problem subgroup, Australia

Problem group
Problem subgroup
Respondents with
substantial problems
Respondents with
problems
N
% of
respondents
with this
problem type
% of all respondents
N
% of all respondents
Accidents
229
14.3
1.1
1 605
7.7
Consumer
1 858
43.5
9.0
4 269
20.6
Goods
380
26.7
1.8
1 423
6.9
Services
1 637
46.9
7.9
3 491
16.8
Credit/debt
696
52.5
3.4
1 327
6.4
Crime
1 243
42.1
6.0
2 954
14.3
Crime offender
213
60.8
1.0
350
1.7
Crime victim
1 110
40.4
5.4
2 748
13.3
Employment
787
61.0
3.8
1 290
6.2
Family
803
77.5
3.9
1 037
5.0
Childrena
575
80.5
2.8
714
3.4
Relationships
326
76.1
1.6
429
2.1
Government
1 127
50.7
5.4
2 224
10.7
Fines
184
32.8
0.9
560
2.7
Government payments
301
62.1
1.5
485
2.3
Local government
484
49.3
2.3
982
4.7
State/federal government
288
52.0
1.4
553
2.7
Health
480
69.5
2.3
691
3.3
Clinical negligence
293
63.5
1.4
462
2.2
Health services
181
84.2
0.9
215
1.0
Mental health
84
81.0
0.4
104
0.5
Housing
1 131
46.4
5.5
2 439
11.8
Neighbours
681
41.5
3.3
1 639
7.9
Owned housing
231
55.8
1.1
414
2.0
Rented housing
318
53.0
1.5
599
2.9
Other housing
10
57.4
0.0
18
0.1
Money
630
53.2
3.0
1 183
5.7
Business/investment
423
48.6
2.0
871
4.2
Wills/estates
252
65.6
1.2
384
1.9
Personal injury
680
47.1
3.3
1 444
7.0
Rights
683
56.9
3.3
1 202
5.8
Discrimination (outside work)
297
58.7
1.4
506
2.4
Education
282
55.8
1.4
505
2.4
Unfair treatment by police
162
54.3
0.8
299
1.4
Other civil
19
75.3
0.1
26
0.1
Unclassifiedb
2
41.4
0.0
5
0.0
All problem groups
5 637
54.8
27.2
10 289
49.7

a Includes problems related to grandchildren (see Appendix A1, question P28). Some respondents (1075) had missing information on whether they had grandchildren (see Appendix A1, question D6) and were not asked about legal problems related to grandchildren. Thus, the prevalence reported for the children problem subgroup may slightly underestimate the true prevalence.
b Comprises problems that were unclearly described by respondents at question P40 (see Appendix A1).
Note: N=20 716 respondents. Percentages do not sum to 100, because multiple problems were experienced by some respondents.

The second data column in Table 3.3 shows that problem groups varied considerably in the proportion of substantial problems they comprised. The family and health problem groups comprised the highest percentages of substantial problems, while the accidents, crime and consumer problem groups comprised the lowest. More specifically, the majority of respondents who experienced family (77.5%) or health (69.5%) problems had at least one substantial problem of this type, whereas less than half of the respondents with accidents (14.3%), crime (42.1%) or consumer (43.5%) problems had at least one substantial problem of this type.

Although the consumer and crime problem groups tended to comprise predominantly minor problems, they were, as previously discussed, the most prevalent problem groups — 20.6 per cent of the entire sample experienced a consumer problem, and 14.3 per cent of the sample experienced a crime problem (see fifth data column).(9) The sheer volume of these types of problems means that the prevalence of substantial problems of these types was also high, even though most of these problems were minor. Specifically, 9.0 per cent of the sample experienced a substantial consumer problem, and 6.0 per cent experienced a substantial crime problem (see third data column). Following the consumer and crime problem groups, the housing and government problem groups had the next highest prevalence of substantial problems. A substantial housing problem was experienced by 5.5 per cent of all respondents, and a substantial government problem was experienced by 5.4 per cent of all respondents.

As already noted, the prevalence of family and health problems in the sample was low, at 5.0 and 3.3 per cent, respectively (see fifth data column). As a result, the prevalence of substantial problems of these types in the sample was also low (3.9% and 2.3%, respectively; see third data column), even though most family and health problems were rated as substantial.

It is noteworthy that the accidents problem group comprised a particularly low proportion of substantial problems (14.3%) relative to all other problem groups (see second data column). This low proportion may reflect the fact that only injury-free motor vehicle accidents were included in this problem group. Motor vehicle accidents that did result in injury were classified under the personal injury problem group.

Table 3.3 also shows that the 5637 respondents with a substantial legal problem represented 27.2 per cent of the entire sample of 20 716 respondents and 54.8 per cent of the 10 289 respondents who had a legal problem of any type.

7. In a small number of cases, respondents did not provide problem severity ratings for some of their problems. Unless a severity rating of ‘substantial’ was provided for at least one of a respondent’s problems, the respondent was assigned to the ‘minor problems only’ category.

8. These figures are based on estimated Australian population numbers as at June 2008 (ABS 2004d, 2007a, 2008e). See Appendix A2, ‘Weighting’ section for details.

9. The fourth and fifth data columns of Table 3.3 are identical to the first two data columns in Table 3.2 and show the prevalence of each problem group and subgroup irrespective of problem severity.

  


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Coumarelos, C, Macourt, D, People, J, MacDonald, HM, Wei, Z, Iriana, R & Ramsey, S 2012, Legal Australia-Wide Survey: legal need in Australia, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney