Note: the original hard copy of this report is 24 pages .

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The legal needs of people with different types of chronic illness or disability, Justice issues paper 11   

, 2009 Consistent with overseas research, Justice made to measure: NSW Legal Needs Survey in disadvantaged areas reported that people with a chronic illness or disability are particularly vulnerable to experiencing legal problems and have difficulty resolving these problems. However, `chronic illness or disability` constitutes a diverse range of conditions and very little research to date has compared and contrasted the legal needs of people with different types of illness or disability. Using data from the NSW Legal Needs Survey, this paper compares people with different types of chronic illness or disability on their incidence of legal problems, their rates of taking action in response to these problems and their resolution rates.

Limitations of present analyses

The group of participants with a disability used in the present analysis is unlikely to be entirely representative of the population of people who have a chronic illness or disability. Firstly, as already noted, there were some demographic differences between the groups of participants with a disability drawn from the Coumarelos et al. (2006) survey and the SDAC. Secondly, the Coumarelos et al. (2006) survey sampled only six disadvantaged areas of NSW and may not be representative of other areas of NSW. Thirdly, the illnesses and disabilities reported in the Coumarelos et al. (2006) survey may be less severe than those in the population given that some people facing severe restrictions may be unable to easily complete a 21-minute telephone survey.

While the Coumarelos et al. (2006) survey had the advantage of recording the type of chronic illness or disability, it did not assess the severity of the illnesses and disabilities, such as the level of restriction involved in participating in daily activities or in society more generally. As a result, any differences reported below between the five disability type sub-groups could, in part, be due to differences in severity. Furthermore, the low numbers in some of the disability type sub-groups (i.e. the mental health problem, sensory disability and multiple types sub-groups) may also have militated against finding significant differences.

As a result of the above limitations, the conclusions presented in this paper should be treated as suggestive rather than definitive. However, given the dearth of empirical data on this issue, the present findings are a starting point for exploring this issue and, it is hoped, will provide a stimulus for more rigorous future investigation.14