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1. Introduction

The Communication Strategy aims to ensure that socially and economically disadvantaged people are aware of the availability of free legal assistance and how to contact LawAccess NSW.

2. Background

LawAccess NSW was launched in July 2002, the result of a partnership between the Attorney General's Department of NSW, Legal Aid Commission of NSW, Law Society of NSW and NSW Bar Association. Acting as the ‘first port of call’ for legal assistance LawAccess NSW:

Provides legal information, managed referrals and legal advice to members of the public who have a legal problem in NSW.

Works with other legal assistance services to streamline the provision of services to customers.

Collects data on legal problems in the community.

LawAccess NSW provides its services via a centralised contact centre facility located at Parramatta and via its website, LawAccess Online (www.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au).

LawAccess NSW through its call centre model provides effective high volume legal assistance to the community. LawAccess prioritises groups traditionally disadvantaged in accessing free legal services:

people from rural, regional and remote areas Aboriginal communities people from a non english speaking background people with a disability people at risk (domestic violence, people in custody, homeless,)

LawAccess NSW has assisted over 531,000 customers and provided over 63,600 legal advice sessions since it commenced in September 20011. In 2006 LawAccess NSW assisted over 117,500 customers, provided 13,838 advice sessions and received 202,900 visitors to LawAccess Online.

3. Need for a communication program

The findings of the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW’ report Justice Made to Measure: NSW legal needs survey in disadvantaged areas, March 20062 demonstrate that there remains a high level of unmet legal need, particularly in disadvantaged areas. Awareness of free legal assistance services appears to be very low, with a strong trend towards the use of family and friends as advisors3 or to ignore legal issues4.

The challenge for LawAccess NSW is to raise awareness of the service as a source of legal assistance whilst meeting the resulting increase in demand5.

1 Data to March 2007 The survey of 2,431 participants found over two thirds had experienced one or more legal event/s in the previous 12 months suggesting a high level of legal need across the 6 disadvantaged areas 2

3 When faced with a legal problem there was widespread use of non-legal advisors including professionals in health, counselling, welfare, government and schools.

4 The Survey found that a common response to a legal event was to do nothing in one third of legal events. This rises to 43.3% for criminal events. Of the 50% that sought assistance only 12% sought assistance from traditional legal services and only 0.2% from LawAccess NSW.

5 Justice Made to Measure: NSW legal needs survey in disadvantaged areas, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, March 2006. Barriers to seeking assistance included: 18.4% difficulty getting through on the telephone (time in queue), 17% delay in getting a response, 11% difficulty getting a local appointment.

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LawAccess NSW Communication Strategy 2007-2009

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