Cognitive impairment, legal need and access to justice, Justice issues paper 10
Cognitive impairment has consistently been raised in the Law and Justice Foundation`s Access to Justice and Legal Needs (A2JLN) research as affecting and compounding legal need and hindering its resolution. The sources of cognitive impairment identified were varied, including intellectual disability, dementia, mental illness and brain injury resulting from an accident, illness or substance abuse. However, the similar symptoms that arise from these disabilities appeared to contribute to the types of legal problems people with cognitive impairment experienced and the barriers they faced in accessing legal help and participating in legal processes.
The A2JLN research program has explored disadvantage and access to justice through a mix of methodologies — quantitative and qualitative. The specific A2JLN reports referred to in this paper are listed on page 16. Drawing upon this research and supporting literature, this paper will:
- highlight legal issues commonly experienced by people with cognitive impairment
- explore the barriers they face to accessing legal assistance and participating in legal processes
- outline strategies suggested in our studies to address this disadvantage.
We will commence by defining the scope of cognitive impairment used in this paper.