Note: the original hard copy of this report is 16 pages .

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NSW Legal Needs Survey in disadvantaged areas: Campbelltown, Justice issues paper 4   

, 2008 Justice made to measure: NSW legal needs survey in disadvantaged areas (2006) is the report of a large-scale quantitative study of the legal needs of disadvantaged people in six local government areas of New South Wales. More than 2400 residents across the regions were interviewed about their legal needs. This report was preceded by an initial study Quantitative legal needs survey: Bega Valley (pilot) (2003). There now follows a series of papers in the Justice Issues imprint. Six individual papers will describe how disadvantaged people deal with legal problems, detailing the responses from one of the regions surveyed: Campbelltown, Fairfield, Nambucca, Newcastle, South Sydney and Walgett....


Survey results


Incidence of legal events14

For the Law and Justice Foundation's 2003 survey, 402 participants were drawn from the Campbelltown LGA, who reported a total of 967 legal events. Table 5 displays the number of legal events reported per participant. The corresponding proportions for all regions are also shown.

Table 5: Number of legal events per participant, for Campbelltown
and all regions, 2003
Number of legal events
Campbelltown
All regions
No.
%
%
0
113
28.1
30.9
1
100
24.9
22.3
2
62
15.4
13.9
3 or more
127
31.6
32.9
Note: All regions, n = 2431, and for Campbelltown n = 402 participants.

Table 5 shows that approximately 28 per cent of Campbelltown participants reported that they did not experience any legal events in the past 12 months. The remaining 72 per cent reported experiencing at least one legal event. This proportion was not significantly different to the total sample (69.1%). Further, it appears that the Campbelltown subgroup had a similar distribution to the overall survey sample in the frequency of legal events reported during the reference period. In detail, Campbelltown LGA had similar rates for reporting one or two events (40.3% vs 36.2% respectively), and three or more events (31.6% vs 32.9% respectively) compared with the average over all regions.15

Areas of law

Figure 1 displays the broad areas of law in which respondents reported legal issues. The bars show the proportion of respondents who reported at least one of these types of issues (civil, criminal, or family) in the last 12 months.

Figure 1: Incidence of legal events by broad area of law, Campbelltown, 2003


Note: Campbelltown, n = 402 participants (of which 289 participants reported 1 or more legal events).

As Figure 1 shows, the most commonly reported area of law in the past 12 months among participants in Campbelltown LGA was civil law. This was not surprising given the survey questionnaire predominantly covered civil legal issues. The proportions of the Campbelltown sub-sample reporting these three types of legal issues were very similar to those for the sample overall (62.9% vs 62.4% for civil issues, 30.6% vs 30.2% for criminal issues, and 10.0% vs 8.5% for family law issues).16 These results are consistent with the finding described in the previous section (Incidence of Legal Events), that a similar proportion of Campbelltown sub-sample reported experiencing one or more legal problems of any type compared with the overall sample.

Table 6: Incidence of legal events by broad area of law and legal event group, for Campbelltown and all regions, 2003
Area of lawEvent group
Campbelltown
All regions
Number of participants
% of participants
% of participants
CivilAccident/injury
78
19.4
19.2
Businessa
12
3
5
Consumer
101
25.1
22
Credit/debt
44
11
12
Educationb
43
10.7
7.4
Employmentc
48
11.9
12.1
Government
81
20.1
19.5
Healthd
9
2.2
3.2
Housing
93
23.1
22.6
Human rights
27
6.7
5.8
Wills/estates
36
9
14.6
CriminalDomestic violence
22
5.5
3.9
General crime
103
25.6
26.6
Traffic offences
19
4.7
3.2
FamilyFamily
40
10
8.5
a 66 Campbelltown participants and 562 overall owned a small business. Of these, 12 (18.2%) and 122 (21.7%) respectively reported at least one business event.
b 204 Campbelltown participants and 1076 overall were full- or part-time students, or were responsible for a student. Of these, 43 (21.1%) and 181 (16.8%) respectively reported at least one education event.
c 270 Campbelltown participants and 1417 overall were employed full- or part-time at some time during the reference period. Of these, 48 (17.8%) and 293 (20.7%) respectively reported at least one employment event.
d 119 Campbelltown participants and 768 overall had chronic conditions or mental/physical disabilities or were responsible for a person with a disability or an elderly person. Of these, 9 (7.6%) and 77 (10.0%) respectively reported at least one health event.
Notes: All regions, n = 2431, and for Campbelltown, n = 402 participants. Some participants reported multiple legal events (within or across legal event groups). As a result, proportions reporting each event will not total 100 per cent.

Details of the incidence of the different event types under each of these broad areas of law (civil, criminal and family) for both Campbelltown LGA and all regions are shown in Table 6. Civil matters include: accident/injury, business, consumer, credit/debt, education, employment, government, health, housing, human rights, and wills and estates. Within civil law, the legal events reported most often by Campbelltown participants were consumer (25.1%), housing (23.1%), government (20.1%) and accidents/injury (19.4%).

For criminal law, events under the general crime group were reported most often by Campbelltown participants (25.6%). As may be expected from the data presented earlier, the Campbelltown sub-sample generally reported experiencing events within almost every legal event group at a similar rate to the general sample.17 It was only for wills and estates legal events (9.0% vs 14.6% respectively) within the civil law event group that Campbelltown residents experienced significantly lower rates than the overall sample.18 In the criminal matter group, it was only for traffic legal events (4.7% vs 3.2% respectively) that Campbelltown residents experienced significantly higher rates than the overall sample.19

Response to legal problems

As noted earlier, respondents in Campbelltown reported a total of 967 legal events (range 1 to 20, median = 1 event). Further details about how participants responded to the most recent events (up to a maximum of three) were obtained. The following data are based on the 515 most recent events for the Campbelltown sub-sample.

Figure 2: Action taken in response to legal events, Campbelltown, 2003



Note: n = 500 events, data missing for 15 events.

Figure 2 shows that help was sought for approximately half of the 'most recent' legal events experienced. In almost 16 per cent of legal events, the respondents dealt with the issue themselves. A sizeable minority, however, did not take any action (34.0%). These rates were similar to those for the overall sample (51.2%, 16.0% and 32.8% respectively).20

Figure 3: Most important reason for doing nothing in response to legal events, Campbelltown, 2003



Notes: Campbelltown, n = 156 events, data missing for 14 events.
Those grouped into the 'other' category (n = 15) did not seek help because they were too embarrassed or did not trust anyone, thought the problem was their fault or had no internet access.

When the reasons for 'doing nothing' in response to their legal problems among the Campbelltown sub-sample were further examined (see Figure 3), two main explanations emerged. In the 29 per cent of legal events where the respondent did nothing about their legal problems, it was because the respondent felt that action either would not make any difference or would make things worse. In approximately 28 per cent of legal events, the respondent felt the issue was not serious or did not know how serious the event was. These were also the two most common reasons for taking no action over all regions. The other main reasons for Campbelltown respondents taking no action were: the respondent had bigger problems, was too busy, or thought the issue would take too long to address, and the respondent hoped the problem would resolve itself (in approximately 12% of legal events for both reasons). Only a very small proportion mentioned cost as a reason for not seeking help (2.2%).21

Figure 4: Action taken in response to legal events by broad area of law, Campbelltown, 2003



Notes: Campbelltown, n = 498, data missing for 17 events.
Totals for each broad area of law are total events for which information was provided on action taken in response.

Figure 4 displays what the Campbelltown sub-sample did in response to their three most recent legal events, broken down by broad area of law. Help was sought in approximately 52 per cent of civil legal events. This was not significantly different from the average over all regions (51.4%).22 The rates for seeking help for criminal events for Campbelltown alone and the overall were also comparable (43.5% vs 46.7% respectively).23 However, there appeared to be a lower proportion of Campbelltown respondents reporting they sought help with family matters, compared with respondents over all regions (40.0% vs 55.4% respectively), although this figure is based on a small number of legal events and therefore it was too small for statistical testing.24

Type of adviser

Although it appears that there are considerable differences in the types of advisers people go to for different types of events (Coumarelos et al. 2006), it is still useful to look at overall patterns in help seeking.

As previously indicated in Figure 2, help with a legal issue was sought in response to approximately half of the most recent events experienced by the Campbelltown sub-sample. In 76 per cent of the cases where help was sought, only one source was approached for help. This figure was 78 per cent for all regions (Coumarelos et al. 2006). The following data relate to the first (or only) adviser consulted for each event.

The types of advisers from whom Campbelltown participants sought help could be roughly divided into two groups: legal and non-legal. Legal advisers included traditional legal advisers (i.e. a private solicitor or barrister, local court, Legal Aid NSW, LawAccess, NSW Aboriginal legal services, a community legal centre) as well as less formal legal advisers, such as a friend or relative who is a lawyer, and published sources (i.e. the internet and self-help sources). Non-legal advisers included a friend or relative who was not a lawyer, a member of parliament, local council, non-legal community group or organisation, library, trade union/professional body, employer, school/school counsellor/teacher, insurance company/broker, industry complaint handling body, police, or other professional (such as doctor) or private agency/organisation. Figure 5 displays the types of adviser approached by the Campbelltown LGA sample and across all regions.

Figure 5: Type of (first or sole) adviser used, for Campbelltown and all regions, 2003



Note: All regions, n = 1455 events, data missing for 41 events and for Campbelltown, n = 246, data missing on 6 events.

For the Campbelltown sub-sample, the first (or sole) source of advice was more likely to be to a non-legal source rather than a legal source (83.7% vs 16.3% respectively). This is consistent with the overall sample and statistically comparable.25 Specifically, over all regions a non-legal adviser was sought in the first instance in 79.8 per cent of legal events and a legal adviser in only 20.2 per cent.

Respondents who sought help from more than one adviser for the same event were asked to nominate the adviser they found most useful. The following section relates to the adviser judged to be the most useful (if more than one adviser was used) or the sole adviser if the respondent used only one source.

Pathways to advisers

It is important for practitioners to be aware of the pathways through which people find assistance for their legal problems. Table 7 displays the channels through which people found their sole or most useful adviser (legal or non-legal), for both the Campbelltown sub-sample and the overall sample.

Table 7: Source of knowledge about sole or most useful adviser,
or Campbelltown and all regions, 2003
Source of knowledge about adviser
Campbelltown
All regions
No.
%
%
General knowledge
85
35
30.2
Used the service before
48
19.8
17.7
Referral by another agency/persona
33
13.6
14.5
Adviser was a friend or relative
31
12.8
16.7
Referral from a friend or relative
19
7.8
8.7
Telephone book
8
3.3
3
Other
6
2.5
<1.0
Internet
5
2.1
2.1
Media
3
1.2
1.8
Walked in off the street
3
1.2
1.1
Pamphlet/Poster
1
< 1.0
2.3
Community Legal Centre referral
1
< 1.0
1
Adviser approached them
0
<1.0
Total
243
100
100
aReferral from another person or agency includes, but is not limited to, referrals by private business, mental health agencies, insurance companies, local council, police, Workcover, Skillshare, doctor, accountant, psychologist, counsellor, financial counsellor, financial adviser, or loan broker.
Note: All regions, n = 1447, data missing for 49 events, and for Campbelltown n = 243, data missing for 9 events for which help was sought.

Table 7 shows that Campbelltown participants were generally similar to all participants in terms of the channels they used to source their advisers.26 Firstly, similar to all participants, those from Campbelltown frequently found their adviser by using their own personal knowledge and personal networks (e.g. 35.0% used their general knowledge, 19.8% had used the adviser before, in 12.8% of cases the adviser was a friend/relative and in 7.8% of cases the adviser was referred from a friend/relative). Secondly, as with the overall sample, Campbelltown participants were also often referred to their adviser by another agency or someone other than a friend/relative (13.6%). Also similar to the overall sample, Campbelltown participants used sources such as the telephone book, a pamphlet/poster, the media and the internet relatively infrequently to source their advisers (<1.0% to 3.3%).

Barriers to assistance

When considering the issue of access to legal assistance, it is important to highlight what may hinder somebody receiving that assistance once they have decided to get help. Table 8 shows the barriers experienced by Campbelltown participants when they sought help for their legal problems.

Table 8: Barriers to obtaining assistance from any advisers,
for Campbelltown and all regions, 2003
Type of BarriersCampbelltownAll regions
No.
%
%
No problem
123
60.9
61.8
Telephone engaged/on hold too long
38
18.8
18.4
Delay in getting response
31
15.3
17
Problem with opening hours
17
8.4
7.6
Difficulty getting an appointment
16
7.9
11
Difficulty affording it
12
5.9
6
Other problems
12
5.9
4.8
Lack of local services/couldn't get there
9
4.5
8.1
Difficulty understanding advice/information
8
4
4.7
Embarrassed to be seen using services
8
4
1.8
English language problems
7
3.5
1.5
No ability to access the internet
5
2.5
2.4
Notes: All regions, n = 1246, data missing for 250 events, and for Campbelltown, n = 202, data missing for 50 events where help was sought.
Percentages do not add to 100 per cent because multiple barriers were sometimes reported for the same event.
The category of 'Other problems' included issues such as receiving inadequate or incorrect advice, refusing to assist or the problem was beyond the area covered by the service contacted.

According to Table 8, Campbelltown participants experienced barriers to receiving assistance in approximately 39 per cent of legal events where help was sought, very similar to the percentage for the overall sample (38.2%). Further, the most common types of barriers experienced by the Campbelltown participants appear similar to those for the overall sample. The main barriers reported were difficulty getting through to an adviser on the telephone (18.8%, this was the most common barrier to obtaining assistance in all regions) and delay in getting a response back from an adviser (15.3%). In only a small proportion of legal events did people report not being able to afford an adviser (5.9%). In light of this information, services may need to reflect on their communication means and the procedures they have in place from when clients make initial contact to when they receive a response to their inquiry. There is evidence that people, especially vulnerable or marginalised groups, may abandon pursuit of legal assistance if such aspects of a legal service break down (Forell, McCarron & Schetzer 2005). For more than half the legal events reported in the current study, however, no problems were reported with the assistance sought.

Distance travelled for assistance

The distance a person has to travel to obtain help may affect their willingness to access legal help. Table 9 shows the distance Campbelltown participants travelled to obtain help from the sole or most useful adviser.

Table 9: Distance travelled to obtain assistance from sole
or most useful adviser, for Campbelltown and all regions, 2003
Distance travelled (kilometres)CampbelltownAll regions
No.
%
%
Didn’t need to travel
84
41.6
44
< 3
32
15.8
19.6
4-Oct
43
21.3
15.8
Nov-20
15
7.4
8.2
21 - 40
18
8.9
4.5
41+
10
5
8
Total
202
100
100
Note: All regions, n = 1249, missing data on 247 events, and for Campbelltown, n = 202, data missing for 50 events.

Among the Campbelltown sub-sample of most recent events, almost 42 per cent of legal events where help was sought involved no travel to access assistance. In general, the Campbelltown subgroup had a similar distribution to all regions in the distance travelled to obtain assistance during the reference period.27 Not surprisingly, those interviewed for this study who resided in metropolitan areas such as Campbelltown had, in general, closer access to advice than those in regional and rural or remote areas (Coumarelos et al. 2006).

Type of assistance

It would be reasonable to assume that when people are asked whether they sought assistance for their legal problems, they were seeking legal help. However, it appears that legal advice, information or referral may not be the sole type of assistance they receive for events that have legal implications. Table 10 displays the type of assistance the participants in the current survey said they received as help for their legal event.

Table 10: Type of help from sole or most useful adviser for three most recent events, for Campbelltown and all regions, 2003
Type of advice
Campbelltown
All regions
Legal adviser
Non-legal adviser
Legal adviser
Non-legal adviser
No.
%
No.
%
%
%
No help received
2
5.7
16
9.7
5.5
9.1
Legal
24
68.6
17
10.3
63.9
15
Non-legal
3
8.6
66
40
5.8
34.1
Legal vs non-legal help not specified
8
22.9
66
40
29.2
42.2
Notes: All regions, n = 1243, data missing for 253 events, and for Campbelltown, n = 200, data missing for 52 events.
The percentages represent the proportion of legal events for which a type of adviser was used where at least one type of legal help, non-legal help, and/or non-specific help was received for sole or most useful adviser.
Multiple types of help could be reported, therefore percentage do not total 100.

In Table 10, it is worth noting how advisers are actually used by people experiencing legal problems. Examples of legal help include assistance with legal documents, preparation for court proceedings or advice about the legal implications of a course of action. Examples of non-legal advice include medical advice, advice about financial options and counselling and support. Unsurprisingly, in the majority of legal events where assistance was sought from a legal source, the help received was legal in nature (68.6%). Interestingly, advice on legal matters was also gained from a non-legal adviser in 10.3 per cent of events. In 40 per cent of cases the help was non-legal. This seems to indicate that people's needs when experiencing a legal event are multiple and include non-legal requirements. In some cases, these needs may constitute supporting evidence or assistance with the original problem that gave rise to the legal event (e.g. a medical condition). However, there are also other roles played by advisers such as moral support, housing or financial support (Coumarelos et al. 2006). It is unfortunate that there was also a sizeable minority for whom the type of help was not specified and therefore the issue of type of help received needs to be further clarified in future research.

Satisfaction with assistance

The moderate rate at which barriers were encountered when obtaining assistance described in Table 8 may have contributed to the high levels of satisfaction that Campbelltown respondents felt with their sole or most useful adviser. Figure 6 shows the rate of satisfaction, broken down by type of adviser.

Figure 6: Satisfaction with assistance from sole or most useful adviser by type of adviser, Campbelltown, 2003



Notes: Campbelltown, n = 200 events, missing data for 52 events for which help was sought.
The 'not satisfied' category includes those who reported being dissatisfied with help received as well as those who were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with help received.

It appears from Figure 6 that in the majority of legal events, respondents were satisfied with the assistance they received from their sole or most useful adviser, with satisfaction expressed in greater than 75 per cent of legal events. There was no statistical difference between the levels of satisfaction with legal compared to non-legal advisers (80% vs 76.4% respectively), even though non-legal advisers were more commonly approached by Campbelltown participants.28 Campbelltown participants had an almost identical level of satisfaction (76.4% vs 76.3% respectively) for non-legal advisers.29 Of the six regions surveyed, Campbelltown LGA had the lowest proportion of events for which participants were satisfied with the help received from legal advisers (80%, range 81–92% for other regions), but this was not statistically significant.30


14  All statistical comparisons between individual LGAs and the overall sample were performed by logistic regression using deviation contrast (see Appendix 2).
15  No comparisons are statistically significant at p = .05.
16  All comparisons p > .05.
17  p > .05.
18  OR = 0.60, p = .001.
19  OR = 1.56, p < .05.
20  Logistic regression adjusted for clustering: sought help vs did nothing/handled alone, p > 05, did nothing vs handled alone/sought help, p > .05.
21  Note that it is possible that those who dealt with the problem themselves could have done so because of cost (or level of seriousness, or they did not know where to go for help). However, data was only collected on why respondents chose not to seek any help, not why they chose to deal with it themselves.
22  Logistic regression adjusted for clustering, p > .05.
23  Logistic regression adjusted for clustering, p > .05.
24  A standard logistic regression showed that the difference was significant at p < .05, but this type of analysis does not take into account the effects of the clustering of events within respondents and therefore should be viewed with caution.
25  Logistic regression adjusted for clustering, p > .05.
26  Logistic regression adjusted for clustering, all comparisons p > .05.
27  Logistic regression adjusted for clustering, p > .05.
28  Logistic regression adjusted for clustering, p > .05.
29  The sample size was too small to conduct a logistic regression adjusted for clustering. However, standard logistic regression showed region not to be a significant predictor.
30  Logistic regression adjusted for clustering, p > .05.