The socio-economic value of a PLE project

In 2008, the Law Centres Federation commissioned the New Economics Foundation (nef) to research the economic and social value of Law Centres. A key element of this research was an analysis of public legal education programmes. Their methodology aimed to capture (and translate into financial value) the full range of impacts on all the stakeholders affected by the project.

Read the research: Socio-Economic value of Law Centres (118 KB)

Nef selected the Possession Prevention Project run jointly by Southwark Law Centre and Blackfriars Advice Centre between 2004 and 2007 as an example of a public legal education programme run by a Law Centre. The project was designed to reduce evictions by combining outreach, training, and policy initiatives. Nef focused on the training and policy work carried out by the project.

Training

Evaluation of the effectiveness of the training was undertaken two months after the training and on completion of the project. The research found:

  • Qualitative responses typically mentioned the quality of the content of the course and how it had improved the trainees’ confidence as an advisor.
  • Quantitative responses included 37% of the respondents stating that they had prevented evictions or possession orders being made as a result of the training. The average number of evictions prevented per agency was 4.5.

Nef considered the impact on all the stakeholders who would be involved in evictions including the potential evictee, the landlord and local and central government. Secondary repercussions were noted such as the deterioration in school performance as an outcome for the child of the family under threat of eviction. They said,

‘There is the possibility that the effects of an eviction on a child could also result in separation from their parents and/or deterioration in their behaviour to the point that they become involved in criminal behaviour. In the case of the latter, then a host of additional costs to the state in the form of police and court time would need to be accounted for. For the parents, we have presented a decline in well-being (physical and mental) resulting from poor quality temporary accommodation or sleeping on friends’ floors as an outcome of an eviction. This decline in well-being could include back pain (from sleeping on sofas), chest conditions (from overcrowded, poorly ventilated accommodation) and stress from the temporary nature of their accommodation conditions.

Nef estimated that the socio-economic benefit of this particular type of legal education and prevention work was around six, meaning that for every £1 spent, £6 worth of social value was created.

Several assumptions were required to generate this figure and nef warn that it should only be considered indicative of the real level of benefit of investing in public legal education programmes.

Policy

In addition to training, the Possession Prevention Project included policy development which covered:

  • Influencing local authority policy and practice
  • Rent arrears policy review, and
  • Joining up local initiatives.

The socio-economic impacts of policy work were less easy to measure, but nef identified several potential impacts. They included a reduction in the number of evictions, a reduction in the number of tenants experiencing rent arrears and greater efficiency of communication. The socio-economic benefits of eviction avoidance are significant – for the evictee £17,156, for the landlord, £4,848 and for the local authority\central government £34,085 – totaling £56,089 in all.

The nef study looked in greater detail at the individual case work services. Their findings indicated a socio-economic cost benefit in excess of 10. The education programme produced an estimated ratio of around 6. Nef conclude that this suggests a significant socio-economic return.

The scope for this study was limited and nef recommended that impact measurement programmes be put in place for future education and prevention projects to more accurately demonstrate their value.

Published: 24 January 2017

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