Social Exclusion and Civil Law: Experience of Civil Justice Problems among Vulnerable Groups

Authors


Address for correspondence: Pascoe Pleasence, Legal Services Research Centre, Legal Services Commission, 85 Grays Inn Road, London, WC1X 8TX. Email: pascoe.pleasence@legalservices.gov.uk

Abstract

Combating social exclusion has become a priority target for many governments and was a key factor in the establishment of the Legal Services Commission (LSC) and the Community Legal Service (CLS) in England and Wales in April 2000. This study aims to assess whether socially excluded groups within the general population are more likely to suffer justiciable problems (problems for which there is a potential legal remedy) and whether such groups differ in their problem resolution strategies and advice-seeking behaviour. We draw upon a large-scale survey of 5,611 people representative of the population of England and Wales, and a further survey of 197 people in temporary accommodation. Five vulnerable groups are extracted: survey respondents with a long-term illness or disability, young and elderly respondents, low-income respondents and those living in temporary accommodation. We identify how some of these vulnerable groups have a high likelihood of experiencing justiciable problems. We also examine advice-seeking strategies among our vulnerable groups and, where contact was made, which advisers were typically contacted. The findings demonstrate the potentially crucial role of access to justice and advice and legal services in tackling social exclusion.

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