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Centre for Access to Justice

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Research

At the core of our activities is the Faculty's own access to justice research, underpinning both our approach to teaching as well as how we provide services and engage with the community.

For the last 20 years, the Faculty's ground-breaking research has had signficant impact on access to justice policies and the delivery of legal services both in the UK and abroad. Building on this history, the Centre continutes to produce research which aims to stimulate debate and inform policy around access to justice issues. 

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Health Justice Research

It has been well established by existing research that there is a close relationship between unresolved legal problems and health. The Faculty's own research has demonstrated that without intervention, these problems can "cascade", causing poor health through financial difficulties, worsening living conditions, stress and anxiety. For those already experiencing multiple disadvantage, legal advice and representation can play a key role in addressing the underlying social determinants which have contributed to ill health such as poor housing, homelessness, and financial instability. 

There is growing recognition that partnerships between health and legal advice services are fundamental to assisting patients in need. Legal advice services may also help doctors support pateints where legal problems are an underlying cause of poor health. 

Integrated into the work of the UCL Integrated Legal Advice Clinic (UCL iLAC), our current research focuses on the role and impact of health-justice partnerships. These are services where legal advice and healthcare services are working together to provide holistic support to patients. This research is investigating how the provision of free legal advice in a primary care setting is associated with the health and wellbeing of individuals who use the service. Specifically, the project is looking at the following aspects:

  • The burden of ill health (both mental and physical) among those seeking legal advice at the clinic, and how this is related to their legal problems.
  • Whether health status (both mental and physical) changes in the months following the receipt of legal advice.
  • How health-related behaviours (such as smoking and drinking) may be related to having a civil legal problem, and whether these behaviours change following the receipt of legal advice.
  • Whether receiving legal advice affects how often patients use the GP.
  • Clients’ perspectives on tackling legal problems in a primary healthcare setting.
  • Perspectives of GP practice staff on co-located legal advice services and how this can contribute to professional practice.

There are still important questions to be answered about the outcomes and health impact of legal advice services. We aim to contribute to this evidence base by undertaking robust research at UCL iLAC. We also champion the movement towards a recognised role for legal advice services as part of social prescribing schemes across the NHS.

Health Justice Videos

"When Lawyers are Good for Your Health"- 2018 UCL Laws Bentham Association Presidential Address, Professor Dame Hazel Genn

"Why the courts are as important as hospitals to the nation's health"- 2009 UCL Lunch Hour Lecture, Professor Dame Hazel Genn 

In the News

‘There is a clear connection between unresolved legal problems and ill health’, Fiona Bawdon, The Justice Gap, 2019 

Online Courts: How to measure “justice” and “fairness”, Dr Natalie Byrom, The Legal Education Foundation, February 22 2019

The Value of Health Justice Partnerships Research Information 

For more information on the project, please see the listing on the ISRCTN database

Health Justice Research Reports and Materials

Mapping Social Welfare Advice in Health Settings

We were commissioned by the Legal Education Foundation to undertake a mapping exercise to identify and characterise services across England and Wales that deliver social welfare legal advice in healthcare settings.

Building on work undertaken for the Low Commission report 2015, we aimed to:

  • Update current knowledge on existing services
  • Gather information on the work being undertaken
  • Describe variation in services across the country
  • Identify gaps in service provision

 

For any queries you can contact the research team: health-justice@ucl.ac.uk

Paths to Justice

In 1996, Professor Dame Hazel Genn (UCL Professor of Socio-Legal Studies) was commissioned by the Nuffield Foundation to conduct a national survey of public experiences of the justice system in England and Wales and another the following year in Scotland. The result, Paths to Justice, was a landmark body of research that:

provided unique data on the public experience of the justice system transformed understanding and policy on the legal needs of citizens led to the adaptation of legal aid and legal services to citizens' needs. 

 

Learn more about Paths to Justice

Read more about Paths to justice – a past, present and future roadmap on the Nuffield Foundation website.

Paths to Justice found that involvement in everyday legal problems was widespread, and that problems often ‘cluster’ together with identifiable ‘trigger’ events producing a cascade of further problems that can significantly impact public health and well-being.

This indicated a need for targeted early advice and intervention. But the study found that people were often unable to access information and advice, that they felt powerless, unsure of their rights and confused about where to obtain help. This was especially true for socially excluded groups.

The Paths to Justice research has produced a fundamental shift in justice policy thinking from a focus on lawyers and courts to a focus on the needs of the public.

It recommended targeting socially excluded groups with legal awareness, improving signposting of free services and more ‘joined up’ services.

The research led to UK government changes in the design and delivery of services. Spending on legal aid through the Legal Services Commission in the UK and the Strategic Framework for Access to Justice in Australia has been shaped by the report findings, including funding for outreach, joining up legal and non-legal services, early intervention, and targeting those most in need.

The Paths to Justice survey is now funded by the Ministry of Justice as a continuous panel study, the Civil and Social Justice Survey, and it has been replicated in 14 different jurisdictions around the world including Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Ukraine, Taiwan, Netherlands, Moldova and Scotland.