TLEF-funded study is step towards creating national strategy.

Research by UCL and funded by The Legal Education Foundation has identified more than 380 health justice partnerships, across the UK, with some in operation for up to 20 years.

The study (‘The Health Justice Landscape in England & Wales’) is the most comprehensive mapping exercise of its kind, and was conducted by Sarah Beardon from UCL’s Centre for Access to Justice. The report is an initial step towards development of a national health justice strategy, which is a long term project funded by TLEF and led by Prof Dame Hazel Genn, a leading authority on the links between unresolved legal problems and ill health.

Although some health justice partnerships dated back two decades, funding for most services was short term, with almost 40% having financial support for less than a year. Funding came mostly from charities and local authorities; less commonly, funding was also received from Care Commissioning Groups and other NHS sources. The most common advice organisations working with health services were Citizens Advice and Macmillan Cancer Support; and nearly half of the partnerships, (49%) were between social welfare legal services providers and GP practices.

Writing in the foreword, Prof Genn says: ‘Since the reductions in public funding for community legal services, there is evidence that complex socio-legal issues are over-spilling into NHS General Practice, as GPs become the last source of free professional advice in the community.’

The study found advice was most often provided for welfare benefits issues (93%), followed by housing (64%) and debt (64%). Support included help filling in application forms for benefits, representing people at tribunals and taking direct action on behalf of individuals. The legal services had a broad range of health-related aims, including to improve mental and physical health, reduce pressure on health services, manage non-clinical needs, support recovery and independence, improve integration of support, and alleviate poverty and its impact on health.

For more information about UCL’s work on health justice partnerships, see: https://www.thejusticegap.com/there-is-a-clear-connection-between-unresolved-legal-problems-and-ill-health/

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