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Access to justice for disadvantaged communities

Access to justice for disadvantaged communities

Marjorie Mayo
Gerald Koessl
Matthew Scott
Imogen Slater
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  • Book Info
    Access to justice for disadvantaged communities
    Book Description:

    Access to justice for all, regardless of the ability to pay, has been a core democratic value. But this basic human right has come under threat through wider processes of restructuring, with an increasingly market-led approach to the provision of welfare. Professionals and volunteers in Law Centres in Britain are struggling to provide legal advice and access to welfare rights to disadvantaged communities. Drawing upon original research, this unique study explores how strategies to safeguard these vital services might be developed in ways that strengthen rather than undermine the basic ethics and principles of public service provision. The book explores how such strategies might strengthen the position of those who provide, as well as those who need, public services, and ways to empower communities to work more effectively with professionals and progressive organisations in the pursuit of rights and social justice agendas more widely.

    eISBN: 978-1-4473-1104-1
    Subjects: Political Science, Law, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Abbreviations and glossary
    (pp. vii-viii)
  2. Introduction: accessing social justice in disadvantaged communities
    (pp. 1-8)

    This book explores the dilemmas being faced by professionals and volunteers who are aiming to provide access to justice for all and to promote social justice agendas in increasingly challenging contexts. Public service modernisation¹ has been accompanied by increasing marketisation and massive public expenditure cuts, with escalating effects in terms of the growth of social inequalities. As the following chapters illustrate, Law Centres have provided a lens through which to examine the implications of these wider policies, as increasing marketisation has been impacting upon staff and volunteers working to promote social justice in disadvantaged communities.

    Given their underpinning ethos and...

  3. ONE Social justice and the welfare state
    (pp. 9-18)

    Before exploring the role of the law, and access to legal advice and advocacy as the background to the study of Law Centres, this chapter summarises the framework of earlier debates (Marshall, 1950; Titmuss, 1968) on social citizenship and the welfare state. How did some of these debates conceptualise public policy interventions to promote social rights such as rights to education, health, welfare and social security, and what were the implications for access to justice? These approaches have been challenged from differing perspectives over time, as the chapter illustrates, setting the context for more recent debates as these relate to...

  4. TWO Concepts of justice and access to justice
    (pp. 19-34)

    Before focusing upon the development of legal aid and the history of Law Centres, more specifically, this chapter starts by summarising different definitions and perspectives on social justice and their varying implications for social welfare. Among others, Piachaud has pointed to ‘the very ambiguity of the term “social justice” – a “feel good” term that almost all can subscribe to’ (Piachaud, 2008, p 33). While the pursuit of social justice ‘has been the driving force behind much, perhaps most, social change’, in Piachaud’s view (Piachaud, 2008, p 50), ‘opinions about what is fair and just have differed, and will probably always...

  5. THREE Ethos and values
    (pp. 35-50)

    This chapter starts by summarising competing perspectives on the public service ethos and professional ethics more specifically, building on the discussion of competing perspectives on lawyers in the preceding chapter. Considerable claims have been made about professional altruism; claims which have in turn been subjected to fundamental challenges. Public service professionals have been faced with increasing dilemmas, in the context of public service modernisation, in attempting to balance competing demands despite the pressures to reduce the space for the exercise of professional judgement. This introductory section sets the context for the later focus on Law Centres and those who were...

  6. FOUR Challenges and dilemmas
    (pp. 51-60)

    The previous chapter described Law Centres, their ethos and values, setting the context for the discussion of the impact of the Carter reforms to legal aid. As Chapter Two has already illustrated, these reforms were the subject of considerable debate when they were first proposed. Critics predicted that the results would be damaging in a number of ways, potentially undermining poor people’s access to justice and posing challenges and dilemmas for those engaged in providing legal aid services. This chapter starts by summarising some of the evidence that has emerged as the reforms have been implemented. This sets the context...

  7. FIVE Public service modernisation, restructuring and recommodification
    (pp. 61-74)

    ‘The shifting boundary between private and public responsibility for social welfare is one of thelongue duréestories of Western history’, a number of commentators have suggested (Drakeford, 2008, p 163). As previous chapters have pointed out, the shift towards greater public responsibility after the Second World War met with a concerted check following the election of the Thatcher government 1979 and the Regan administration in 1980. The future was to be one of ‘customers not clients, purchasers not providers, managers not administrators, competition not allocation, regulation not planning and equality of opportunity not equality of outcome’ (Drakeford, 2008, p...

  8. SIX Conflict and competition versus collaboration and planning
    (pp. 75-92)

    This chapter explores the pressures of increasing conflict and competition, on the one hand, as against the challenges involved in promoting collaboration and planning, on the other hand. The first section summarises the tendencies towards conflict and competition that had impacted on Law Centres’ relationships with other agencies in the past. This sets the context for the discussion of public service modernisation, with its associated pressures towards increasing competition in more recent times – despite New Labour’s attempts to promote partnership working in parallel. The final section explores the countervailing strategies that have been developed in a number of Law Centres,...

  9. SEVEN Public service modernisation and time
    (pp. 93-102)

    Previous chapters have discussed key aspects of the Carter reforms and subsequent change, as they impacted upon Law Centres, their ethos, values and practices, as well as on the working conditions of Law Centre staff and volunteers. The central issue of this chapter relates to questions of time and, more specifically, to questions of how recent changes have changed both the quantitative and the qualitative nature of working time. So many of the tensions and dilemmas that were being experienced were described in relation to time, in terms of increasing time pressures, in terms of differing notions and understandings of...

  10. EIGHT Alienation and demoralisation, or continuing labours of love?
    (pp. 103-116)

    This chapter draws together evidence on the impact of the challenges and dilemmas of public service modernisation for the staff members and volunteers involved with Law Centres. As has already been suggested, one of the criticisms that has been levelled at New Public Management systems is that they presuppose negative views of human motivation, assuming that employees in general, and professionals more specifically, need the discipline of targets imposed from above (Le Grand, 2003). As a result, critics have argued, target-type cultures actually risk alienating public service workers, undermining the very motivations and commitments that brought them into the public...

  11. NINE Access to justice for disadvantaged communities: value and values
    (pp. 117-130)

    Access to justice was central to the principles upon which the post-war welfare state was established, as Chapter One explained, demonstrating the importance of Law Centres’ contributions to the provision of access to justice for all, regardless of the ability to pay. How, then, were public service modernisation agendas being experienced in this vitally important but relatively under-researched field? And what might be the wider implications for social justice agendas more generally?

    As the Introduction explained, Law Centres were selected for study for a number of reasons, including the fact that they were offering precisely the access to information about...

  12. APPENDIX 1: Research methodology and questionnaire
    (pp. 131-144)
  13. APPENDIX 2: Law Centres included
    (pp. 145-146)
  14. APPENDIX 3: Topic guides for semi-structured interviews
    (pp. 147-150)