International funding models – recent findings

The Plenet report is an interesting analysis of funding for public legal education activities in Australia and Canada. Drawing on these experiences, the report makes some important recommendations on how PLE should be funded here in the UK.

Read the report international PLE funding models (150 KB)

The report finds that Australia has adopted a mixed model approach with Government funding for community legal services including an element of PLE. 12.5% of community legal centres receive such funding which amounts to around 6% of total spend. The National Association of Community Legal Centres describes the benefits of this approach:

The strength of this mixed model approach enables services to be responsive to community needs by maintaining close contacts with the communities which they serve. By taking an early intervention and multi-faceted approach to services there is a reduced likelihood of unnecessary litigation and other negative social consequences.

Public legal education and information (PLEI) in Canada is funded by the Government, Law Foundations and Legal Aid Ontario which funds community law clinics. Primarily, PLE work is carried out through sole-purpose organisations funded by Law Foundations. Sometimes raised as a possible source of funding here in the UK, Law Foundations use revenue raised from interest on lawyers trust accounts, to fund PLE work.

The report uncovers several issues. Firstly, the risks associated with using income from trust accounts when interest rates fluctuate. Secondly, the report picks up on a debate about the role of Government materials and the need for a clear delineation between PLEI activities and Government communications, and recommends:

The role of Government information as an awareness raising tool that is broadly targeted and nationally oriented is better suited to the provision of general information about the law. Given that PLE is about education and about how information gets absorbed and translated into understanding, production of PLE aimed at providing practical legal information with the capacity to be critical and targeted to local needs may be better provided independent of Government.

Recommendations

The analysis of funding arrangements for both Australia and Canada underlines the difficulties in ensuring adequate funding for PLE. The Australian model suggests that the ability of PLE interventions combined with policy activities in an integrated legal clinic model does enable services on the ground sufficient flexibility to be proactive in meeting unmet demand for services. The Canadian model reflects their commitment to funding sole-purpose PLEI providers but is precarious in view of the risks associated with interest rates falling.

The report therefore recommends that a combination of approaches is taken. There should be an investment in integrated delivery such as through existing legal and advice services, as well as adult learning and basic skills provision. Alongside this, the funding of sole-purpose PLE provision will enable the most effective dissemination of PLE research, materials and quality assurance standards to support coordinated and high quality PLE activities.

International PLE funding models (150 KB) by Lisa Wintersteiger 2009

A funding model for the UK ? What do you think ?

Published: 19 October 2016

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