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.


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:


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:
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.