Legal capability for everyday life
Law for Life’s legal capability project ‘Legal capability for everyday life', set out to equip people to deal with the law-related issues they are likely to encounter in the course of their lives.
Funded by the Baring Foundation, the project ran legal learning courses for users of three advice agencies across London. It tested Law for Life's legal capability approach and has produced prototype learning materials which will be developed for wider use.
Aims of the legal capability project
- improve the levels of legal capability of the participants
- test the conceptual model of legal capability
- implement and test the public legal education evaluation framework in the context of advice agencies
- improve advice agencies ability to undertake PLE within their local communities
- begin to assess the potential wider socio-economic impact, the social benefit, of PLE projects.
Law for Life worked in partnership with three advice agencies and a national charity, Attend who work with adults with an acquired brain injury. The three advice agencies were the Disability Law Service working with Attend, Paiwand, an Afghan Association working with refugees in north-west London, and Community Links working with local residents in Newham, London.
‘The most useful thing that I learned from the course was about housing, mean landlords, tenancy agreements and about benefits. This course was excellent and very useful for all of us and the course delivery was very good. I really enjoyed the course and learned very much.’
Short courses in law-related education took place over the summer and autumn of 2012. The six sessions were designed for their learners and covered: making sense of the law, getting help and finding out about the law, dealing with problems including practical skills, and broader issues of influencing change and community engagement.
The sessions covered generic issues around dealing with law-related issues together with more specific sessions on housing, employment, discrimination and welfare benefits.
The learning resources developed for these sessions focussed on the learning objectives set out in Law for Life's conceptual framework of legal capability. They used a variety of education techniques to engage participants and develop the skills and confidence needed to deal with common issues.
The project was externally evaluated by The Gilfillan Partnership using the PLE evaluation framework developed by Law for Life with University of Bristol in 2011. The evaluation report was published in January 2013.
The evaluation results showed a strong improvement in the legal capability of individuals participating in the PLE course.
'Those who took part in the PLE course were better able to recognise the legal dimension of day to day issues and more confident that they could tackle these issues or seek appropriate help when necessary, when compared with service users of the same advice agencies who did not take part in the PLE courses'.
'The advice agencies that took part in the project consider that PLE is becoming increasingly essential to help ordinary people to cope as funding cuts reduce the availability of legal and general advice services. The PLE course developed and piloted through the 'Legal capability for everyday life' project represents an accessible and relatively low-cost measure which advice agencies can use to help their users to become better able to manage their everyday lives without recourse to increasingly limited advice service provision.'
The success of the pilot is illustrated in these three charts comparing the legal capability of project participants and non-participants (142 KB).
The report stressed the importance of agencies having access to central support when initiating and delivering good quality PLE and concluded:
'There is a strong need for continuing support from Law for Life in order to promote the value of public legal education, develop resources, promote high quality in PLE, share good practice between providers, and to evidence the impacts of PLE through co-ordination of robust and systematic evaluation of PLE provision.'
It recommended that the pilot work undertaken by Law for Life be extended to include a wider range of advice agencies, such as young people and older people and that further work is needed to find ways of helping agencies to manage the implementation of robust evaluation methodologies. 'It may be more effective to move to an on-line evaluation process that is centrally managed by Law for Life.'
Read the report's findings and recommendations (505 KB) in full.
The Baring Foundation was set up in 1969 to give money to charities and voluntary organisations pursuing charitable purposes. Their purpose is to improve the quality of life of people suffering disadvantage and discrimination. They aim to achieve this through making grants to strengthen voluntary sector organisations which serve them directly or indirectly and by the added value the Foundation brings to this.
This project is funded by the Baring Foundation as part of its strategy to promote prevention and early action as an integral part of the work of advice services.
Find out more about the Baring Foundation.
Updated January 2013