Research jointly commissioned by The Legal Education Foundation and The Joseph Rowntree Foundation explores the role of the law and access to legal services in creating pathways into, and out of destitution.

The Legal Education Foundation has joined forces with The Joseph Rowntree Foundation to commission research exploring the role of access to law and legal services in pathways into and out of destitution. The research, conducted by a team of academics led by Professor Grainne McKeever from Ulster University will be launched today at an event hosted by The Joseph Rowntree Foundation. To follow discussions at the event on Twitter, search for #UKDestitution.

This report, jointly commissioned by The Legal Education Foundation and The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, is one of a number of parallel reports published alongside Fitzpatrick et al’s (2018) research Destitution in the UK. Fitzpatrick et al’s (2018) research estimates that: "approximately 1,550,000 people, 365,000 of them children, were destitute in UK at some point over the course of 2017" (Fitzpatrick et al. 2018:2). Destitution and Paths to Justice explores the role of the law and access to legal services (or lack thereof) in creating pathways into, and out of, destitution.

The key recommendations are as follows:

  1. A statutory duty on destitution should be created:
    Primary legislation should establish a clear definition of destitution and a duty on public bodies to protect all persons lawfully present in the UK from destitution.

  2. Legal services should be co-located with other crisis and support services:
    Co-locating services would reduce referral fatigue and improve the ability of advisors to intervene earlier. The resourcing of legal services is vital in order to render any statutory duty to prevent destitution meaningful.

  3. Government should be placed under a positive duty to facilitate access to social security:
    The government should be placed under a positive duty to ensure that individuals are receiving the social security benefits they are entitled to. This would require government to address systemic issues in the administration of benefits.

To find out more about the background to this project and read reflections on the research from TLEF’s Director of Research and Learning, Dr Natalie Byrom, visit TLEF’s new Research and Learning Blog: https://research.thelegaleducationfoundation.org/blog/destitution-and-the-law.

The full report and executive summary are available here.

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