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The legal needs of older people  ( 2004 )  Cite this report

Ch 3. Legal services



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Legal service provision


Lack of specialised services


Based on consultations undertaken for this project, older people and service providers agreed that there was a gap in service provision to older people. Older people, while experiencing many of the same legal problems as other age groups, do have some special needs that differentiate them from others. This is the case in terms of specialised areas of the law, such as retirement village contracts, and in terms of catering to their particular communication needs.

    There is no community legal centre for older people. This is a gap in New South Wales Service Provision. When you're dealing with elder abuse, there is no dedicated service, like there is in South Australia and Queensland. Older people who go to domestic violence services can encounter a lack of empathy and awareness.75

The lack of a singular, specialised service for older people, or 'one-stop-shop,' sends them on a referral path.

    We've had quite a bit of CLE [community legal education] talking about [end of life issues]. Our policy is not to write wills — we talk to people about it. We give them advice about wills after the event of death in disputes about estates but we don't write wills. That probably keeps the older people away from our service. We give referrals.76

Referrals can be discouraging and frustrating for consumers of legal services as well as time consuming for service providers.

    …Clients seeking assistance from public legal service agencies often experience a legal advice 'roundabout,' as they are referred from one CLC [community legal centre] or legal aid office to another… There is often a lack of knowledge about the services provided by other agencies in the system. The service provider may not have the expertise to give advice…77

Even if a specialised service were to be introduced to cater to older people's legal needs, better referral practices require development to prevent older individuals being shunted from service to service.

Consultation with Basil La Brooy, National Information Centre on Retirement Investments (NICRI), 20 September 2002.
Consultation with Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre, 11 October 2002.
Australian Law Reform Commission, Managing Justice A review of the federal civil justice system, Australian Law Reform Commission Report n.89, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 2000, pp. 379380.

75  Consultation with Basil La Brooy, National Information Centre on Retirement Investments (NICRI), 20 September 2002.
76  Consultation with Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre, 11 October 2002.
77  Australian Law Reform Commission, Managing Justice A review of the federal civil justice system, Australian Law Reform Commission Report n.89, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 2000, pp. 379380.


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Ellison, S, Schetzer, L, Mullins, Perry, J & Wong, K 2004, The legal needs of older people in NSW, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney