Note: the original hard copy of this report is 164 pages .

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Data digest: a compendium of service usage data from NSW legal assistance and dispute resolution services, 1999-2002   

, 2004 Analyses data collected by the main publicly funded NSW legal service providers on the nature of inquiries received, the demographic characteristics of inquirers and the pathways they took to resolve their issues.


Introduction


The Data Digest contributes to Stage 1 of the Access to Justice and Legal Needs Research Program by providing a snapshot of expressed legal need in the community. In particular the Digest, using data collected by a range of NSW services that provide assistance with legal problems, describes:
These data will contribute to Stage 2 of the Program which will examine the access to justice and legal needs of particular disadvantaged groups and regions in NSW.

The Digest is based on data from key not-for-profit legal assistance agencies in NSW. The Digest also includes an overview of published demographic and service usage data of dispute resolution agencies in NSW.

While providing a snapshot of expressed legal need in the general community, the research particularly focused on the expressed needs of socially and economically disadvantaged groups in New South Wales. These include people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, Indigenous people, young people, elderly people, people on low incomes, and people in rural, regional and remote areas. Where possible, data have been presented which illuminate the use of the services by members of these groups.

While the Digest cannot claim to represent a definitive or comprehensive picture of legal need in NSW, the Foundation believes that compiling these data is a valuable exercise. Information about service users who present with legal problems is a useful tool for assessing expressed legal need. By bringing together data from a range of services, it is possible to identify similarities and differences in the pattern of inquiries across services. This assists in building a picture of who is accessing the legal system, what their expressed needs are and the pathways they follow.

To facilitate comparison across a range of key indicators, raw data from the agencies were transformed, classified and mapped to common sets of categories. The compilation of data presented in the Digest is the first attempt in NSW to capture such information in the one volume.3 This report, by making use of readily available data, should provide a valuable reference for those concerned with identifying and addressing access to justice and legal need in the community.

The Digest also highlights the potential value of developing common data collection protocols. While acknowledging that each agency needs to collect data to meet their own needs, moving towards a collaborative and common approach to data collection and management would assist with providing a sound knowledge base for policy makers and service providers.


 Cunningham, Mary and Ted Wright 1996, The Prototype Access to Justice Monitor, Justice Research Centre, Law Foundation of NSW. This prototype is a collection of quantitative measures for Queensland legal services in areas such as court delays, legal costs and available services.