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Outreach legal services to people with complex needs: a review of what works

By: Suzie Forell, Abigail Gray

This paper reports on a systematic review of the best available research into outreach legal services to disadvantaged people with complex needs. The authors define a broad range of legal services are provided under the banner of ‘outreach’. For example, outreach legal services include legal assistance services in welfare agencies, pro bono legal advice clinics to homeless people, regular advice sessions run by community legal centres in remote locations, and civil and family law advice provided by Legal Aid to clients of Aboriginal Legal Services.

The review finds that to effectively reach and assist these ‘hard-to-reach’ clients, outreach legal services need — at the outset — to form and maintain strong links with target communities and the agencies which support them. While outreach services are best located in places that are frequented and trusted by the target groups, the reach of the service is increased by appropriate marketing of the service to the target group and supporting agencies and individuals, and effective referral systems with agencies and other trusted intermediaries. The review also highlights the features of appropriate service provision to these target groups through outreach, and the associated resource and staffing implications.  The findings reported here are based on a comprehensive and systematic review of research and evaluation reports on outreach legal services to disadvantaged people in Australia and overseas.

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Uploaded on: Dec 02, 2013
Last Updated: Dec 04, 2015
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