The Bach Report: (19) Public legal education

This is the seventeenth in the new series of blogs which will start with relevant extracts from the Bach Commission’s Final Report. These will be followed by the more detailed treatment I gave to the topic in one of the chapters in Appendix 5 to the Report.

I wrote the papers in this Appendix because I was keen not to lose the opportunity to provide in-depth treatment of important issues for which there would clearly be no room in the report itself.

Appendix 4 to the Report contains a much fuller version of the evidence given to the Commission by Law for Life and the Citizenship Foundation, and this evidence can be found at the end of this blog.




Public legal education, information and advice are frequently overlooked, but must form a key part of government policy to realise the right to justice. It is easy to think that understanding of the law is less urgent than ensuring people have unimpeded access to the courts. But as the commission wrote in our interim report:

In order for citizens to act on their right to justice, they need the capacity to identify a problem as legal in character, understand the help to which they are entitled and select an appropriate service.”

Without that capacity, they cannot meaningfully access justice.

For this reason, our proposal in part one for a right to justice is intended to be broad, to include access to basic legal information and advice. In this chapter we present recommendations to complement the principles underpinning the right to justice act and re-balance the focus of the justice system towards increasing people’s legal capacity and solving problems early.

Firstly, and most immediately, if members of the public are not able to identify issues in their lives as legal problems, they cannot set about resolving them using their legal rights. But the problem does not end there. Often people are thrust into making decisions within the justice system with insufficient knowledge. Acting on either no advice or poor advice, they take actions that may adversely impact their right to justice.

For example, most people are unaware of the potential consequences of accepting a caution for a crime. Julian Hunt, an experienced criminal defence barrister and former senior crown prosecutor told the commission of a minicab driver who:

“lost his living after 17 years as an honest, decent cabbie. He had been accused of taxi touting and had a strong defence … but the duty rep at the police station told him to take the caution for taxi touting to get him in and out. It meant that he automatically lost his cab licence due to the TFL zero tolerance policy.”[1]

These problems go wider than just a knowledge deficit, although there certainly is a deficit of public knowledge about the law. The issue is a lack of ‘legal capability’, the capacity to understand and confront legal problems. As Lisa Wintersteiger, chief executive of Law for Life, told the commission, legal capability is constituted of “knowledge, skills and confidence”. It is a:

“key indicator for the effective use of legal services. People with low levels of legal capability are less likely to act and less likely to sort things out effectively on their own. They are also less able to solve legal problems successfully, and are twice as likely to experience stress-related ill-health, to experience damage to family relationships, and to lose their income.”

This public deficit in legal capability is longstanding. But to make matters worse the provision of public legal education, information and advice has suffered significant cuts in recent years. The commission therefore believes there is a need for a joined up and national approach to assess need and allocate resources accordingly. Action is needed to improve legal capability in schools, online and throughout life.

The 2014 Low Commission report on the future of advice and legal support proposed six main principles for tackling these issues, which are very helpful in thinking about future provision:

“early intervention and action rather than allowing problems to escalate;

investment for prevention to avoid the wasted costs generated by the failure of public services;

simplifying the legal system;

developing different service offerings to meet different types of need;

investing in a basic level of provision of information and advice;

embedding advice in settings where people regularly go, such as GP surgeries and community centres.” [2]


To help realise the right to justice, we support the recommendation of the Low Commission that a specific minister should create a national government strategy for legal advice and support, driven by these principles. This strategy should encompass everything from public legal education in schools through to online information and face-to-face advice.

We recommend:

Better public legal education in schools

  1. There should be a new responsibility on Ofsted to assess in greater depth how well schools prepare children for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life. Government should also better support and facilitate the development of relationships between schools and organisations who are working to improve legal capability.

Universally accessible advice

  1. The government should support the introduction and maintenance of a centrally branded and easily navigable portal for online information and advice. The government should share the details of this central portal in communications with the public about other matters such as health and education.
  2. The government should create a new, ring-fenced fund for advice providers who are able to evidence the effectiveness of their approach to delivering advice to people within their communities.


The current state of public legal capability

Public legal education is not something discrete and separate to the justice system, to be delivered only in schools. It should be seen – along with information and advice – as an essential part of the provision of legal support in general. As the Low Commission put it, support for social welfare law is:

“a spectrum or continuum including public legal education, informal and formal information, general advice, specialist advice, legal help and legal representation. The more preventive work we can do at the beginning of this continuum, the less we should have to do at the end.”[3]

But the state of public legal education and advice has been poor for a long time. In 2007 Professor Dame Hazel Genn’s Public Legal Education and Support Task Force concluded that about one million civil justice problems went unresolved every year because people did not understand the legal system or know how to use it for their benefit.[4] It described this as “legal exclusion on a massive scale”. The previous year, government economists had estimated that unresolved law-related problems cost individuals and the public purse the astonishing figure of £13bn, over a three-and-a half year period.[5]

Public legal education, information and advice increase legal capability, equipping people with the knowledge and confidence to make the rights that they have meaningful. Advice and education also act to prevent the unnecessary and costly escalation of disputes into the courts. As Professor Richard Susskind told the commission:

“The ambulance should be at the top of the cliff. The state should play its part in promoting dispute avoidance. We need to reduce the need for dispute resolution by placing a fence at the top of the cliff. Legal education is [an] aspect of this.”

The most detailed work into the state of public legal capability is found in the analyses of the results of the 2010 and 2012 English and Welsh Civil and Social Justice Panel Surveys, which were conducted by Law for Life[6] and Pascoe Pleasence et al.[7] The findings make discouraging reading. The study found that over half of the population will experience a civil justice problem over the course of three years. And yet relatively few of us are equipped to understand our rights in relation to commonplace problems we face.

Usually there should be no need to use a lawyer to solve a legal problem, if people feel well informed and can find a satisfactory resolution without recourse to the justice system. But the study found that only 11 per cent of people can accurately identify legal problems in the first place. In this context, the fact that only 6 per cent of those with legal problems use a lawyer and only 4 per cent use an advice service is a cause for alarm.

Over half of those who experienced a legal problem suffer negative side effects including

“stress-related ill-health, loss of income or confidence, physical ill-health and family breakdown”.

As the Law for Life report states:

“The collective impact on the wellbeing of individuals and the economy is staggering.”[8]

People with low legal capability are twice as likely to experience these negative side effects.[9] What is more, there is a large overlap between the demographics of those most likely to experience legal problems – manual and routine workers, those with few educational qualifications, migrants, the poor, the young and the old – and those who are least likely to possess legal capability.


The first issue the government must consider is the provision of legal education in schools. Citizenship has formed part of the national curriculum since 2002 and it is the avenue through which public legal education is taught in schools. One of the four aims of the citizenship curriculum is to ensure that all pupils

develop a sound knowledge and understanding of the role of law and the justice system in our society and how laws are shaped and enforced”.

In key stage three, when students are aged between 11 and 14, they are expected to be taught about

the precious liberties enjoyed by the citizens of the United Kingdom”,


the nature of rules and laws and the justice system, including the role of the police and the operation of courts and tribunals.”

In key stage four, when they are aged between 14 and 16, they are expected to be taught about

the legal system in the UK, different sources of law and how the law helps society deal with complex problems[10].

This is a strong starting point. But the citizenship curriculum is rarely taught by specialists. As the Citizenship Foundation told the commission, the number of trainee citizenship teachers has fallen from 240 in 2010 to just 54 in 2016.[11] More worryingly, Ofsted is no longer required to inspect citizenship as a subject. In addition, academies, free schools and independent schools are not required to teach the national curriculum and therefore have no mandatory requirement to teach a specified curriculum of public legal education. They are simply required to have a curriculum which prepares pupils ‘for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life’.

In addition to the national curriculum, a number of legal organisations work with schools to provide further information about the law. The Citizenship Foundation provides resources and teacher training for non-specialist teachers, and runs conferences and other events led by legal professionals to teach students about legal issues. But this work is small-scale and poorly funded. Financial support for national government for the Citizenship Foundation, for example, has fallen from around 60 per cent of its total income to “virtually 0 per cent”.[12]

The principles of the Right to Justice Act will place a new onus on government to provide an adequate level of public legal education and information, including within schools. As part of this, we suggest they consider introducing a new responsibility on Ofsted to assess in greater depth how well schools prepare children for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life. We also recommend the government better supports and facilitates the development of relationships between schools and organisations who are working in schools to improve legal capability.



CHAPTER 17: Public Legal Education (PLE)

The Citizenship Foundation and Law for Life: Background

The Citizenship Foundation has been engaged in explaining aspects of the legal system in schools for over 25 years. It has been using different techniques, and in many schools its annual Mock Trial competition is now a regular feature of the school year. Its current Chief Executive Officer, Tom Franklin, was appointed in 2016.

Law for Life was founded in 2011, as explained below, following the report of the PLEAS Task Force in 2007.

Both these organisations gave written and oral evidence to the Commission on 21 June 2017, which is to be found in Appendix 4 (and is set out at the end of this blog).  This paper covers background matters not included in that Appendix.

The report of the PLEAS Task Force

In July 2007 Hazel Genn’s PLEAS Task Force published its report.[13] It said that about one million civil justice problems went unresolved every year because people did not understand the legal system or know how to use it for their benefit. It described this as “legal exclusion on a massive scale”. MoJ economists estimated that over a three-and-a half year period unresolved law-related problems cost individuals and the public purse £13 billion.[14]

The Task Force recommended the creation of a new PLE Centre as a non-departmental public body with statutory powers, which should be funded for the first five years by central government, with first year funding in the region of £1.5 million. It suggested that the new centre should:

    • Create a coherent focus and identity for PLE;
    • Create a practitioner network and an online knowledge bank;
    • Develop and spread good practice, including evaluation and quality frameworks;
    • Secure sustainable funding; and
    • Work to establish a statutory remit for the development of PLE.

The formation and early years of Law for Life

Following the publication of the report Sir Henry Brooke chaired a small working party at the premises of AdviceNow which began some of the work envisaged by the Taskforce, largely aided by an annual MoJ grant of £200,000 core funding. This ended after the 2010 General Election at about the same time as an independent charity called Law for Life was formed to carry on the work.

Michael Smyth CBE QC was its first chair. He has recently been succeeded by Amanda Finlay, the former head of MoJ’s Access to Justice Division. Julie Bishop was a member of the earlier working party and she also served as a trustee of Law for Life for some time. Its first chief executive, Martin Jones, was one of the three instigators of the new PLE movement 15 years ago. When he retired last year, Lisa Wintersteiger, who has been involved with its work as a senior researcher ever since the first MoJ grant was put in place, became its chief executive.

In the last three years MoJ has provided about £100,000 each year towards the support of the AdviceNow website.[15] Its projects are also supported by grants, coupled with an element of core funding. It is a member of the official group concerned with LIP engagement; language issues; and simplifying procedure.

In short, Law for Life is an independent information and education charity. It serves over a million people in England and Wales by means of the online provision of multimedia legal information and learning tools which can be accessed through its Advicenow service.[16]   Its curated information service brings together 1,600 pieces of public legal information from over 250 UK websites.



(1) Evidence: Law for Life

Date of Session: 21 June 2017

Law for Life is an independent information and education charity. We serve over a million people in England and Wales via the Advicenow service, through online provision of multimedia legal information and learning tools. Our curated information service brings together 1600 pieces of public legal information from over 250 UK websites.

We are delighted that we have increased our reach to vulnerable users: 29% identify as low-income workers, 46% identify as disabled, and 48% have a household income of below £1,100 per month after tax. We increased help to litigants in person or potential litigants in person (accounting for 75% of all survey respondents).

The online service is often used by intermediaries and helpers that might be advisers, but also community workers and family members. 10% of our survey respondents say they are using Advicenow to help someone else to deal with a problem but are not an adviser.

Law for Life delivers community-based education and training aimed at building knowledge, skills and confidence in dealing with legal matters. We cover a range of topics with a cross-cutting curriculum aimed at building foundational legal concepts and skills. We often work through trusted helpers in community settings, be they migrant and asylum groups, social workers, teachers or faith leaders. In some cases we also work directly with vulnerable people, for example social housing tenants and, more recently, women

PART I: Written Submission

Developments since the PLEAS Task Force 2008[17]

The 2007 Task Force recommended the need for a centre for PLE and set out some priorities for the development of the sector, along with much of their fact-finding work. These recommendations are still relevant for us today. The Task Force suggested that we need to:

Create a coherent focus and identity for PLE

Create a practitioner network and online knowledge bank

Develop and spread good practice including evaluation and quality frameworks

Secure sustainable funding

Work to establish a statutory remit for the development of PLE

In the last 5 years we were able to achieve the following:

To set up and grow a dedicated PLE charity in the face of contracting public sector and charitable revenue.

To merge the Advicenow service with our charity and protect the very substantial information provision to the public.

To implement and test a PLE evaluation framework[18] and use the conceptual building blocks of legal capability to design curricula and assess whether we are able to show outcomes from a variety of interventions.

To share research and tools with PLE sectors both in the UK and overseas.

To innovate, with the help of Trusts and Foundations. For example, interactive digital tools such as our Personal Independence Payment Tool, which attracted 70,000 visitors this last year to help them to challenge DWP decisions.

To develop e-learning tools that can be used by vulnerable groups, and to expand and refine a range of community based curricula in the most pressing areas of law affecting poorer communities.

To contribute to the Litigant in Person Strategy, now in its third year of operations, which offers a coordinated response to the needs of people using the courts without the help of a lawyer.

Legal need, legal capability and public legal education[19]

Legal aid cuts in England and Wales since LASPO mean that many people who used to be able to access advice and representation have been left without help in areas of law that have traditionally been associated with poverty and social disadvantage.

These cuts, as the Commission well knows, have eviscerated swathes of the advice sector, and they had an enormous impact on the informational ecosystem that was available to the public.[20]

Organisations which offered good and up-to-date information on immigration and asylum matters, like the Immigration Advisory Service, also closed, leaving a complex and fast-changing area of law with very little in the way of good information for the public.[21]

It should be noted, however, that the scale of the unmet need was evidenced long before the reductions in legal aid cuts were effected by LASPO, as the Task Force report revealed.

Lack of knowledge about laws and legal systems is pervasive, and findings on the lack of access to legal advice and representation have been mirrored in studies ranging over a period of 30 or more years across 26 national surveys in 15 different jurisdictions. While caution is needed when comparing studies around the world with very different methodologies and designs, certain commonalities can be drawn out[22].  Every survey in the Paths to Justice tradition has pointed to the peripheral role of legal services and legal processes in relation to many types of justiciable problem. The use of lawyers and the use of the formal legal system is incredibly low when compared with the prevalence of legal problems.   The use of legal services does, however, vary across problem types. For example, family matters tend to attract higher levels of lawyer and legal process use, whereas welfare benefits and consumer matters have traditionally attracted far less.[23]

In the United Kingdom repeated population-wide studies in England and Wales have shown a substantial legal knowledge deficit. Most people lack effective knowledge of legal rights and processes, and many people misinterpret or misunderstand their rights. People often fail to recognise the legal dimensions of problems.[24] This means that they are limited in their actions, in their choices and in their ability to access appropriate help. They are also hindered from using digital help effectively because they struggle to frame their problems in a way that enables them to search for what they need.   If they do find information, they are often unable to assess its quality and veracity properly. In addition, they cannot always correctly identify whether the information they have accessed applies to the relevant jurisdiction (for example, a user may be applying US law unknowingly to a UK legal problem).

Alongside these major gaps in knowledge, there are also broader capabilities or competencies that people need when they are faced with legal issues. Three attributes (or attitudinal characteristics) – knowledge, skills and confidence – form what has become known as legal capability.   Legal capability is a key indicator for the effective use of legal services. People with low levels of legal capability are less likely to act and less likely to sort things out effectively on their own. They are also less able to solve legal problems successfully, and are twice as likely to experience stress-related ill-health, to experience damage to family relationships, and to lose their income. Low levels of capability are not limited to the most vulnerable, although the impact of the absence of knowledge is not evenly distributed.

There are strong correlations between susceptibility to legal problems and the presence of disability, single-parenthood, the receipt of welfare benefits, unemployment, and minority ethnic grouping. People with low levels of legal capability have the same characteristics as those who are at greater risk of experiencing legal problems, a fact that compounds their risk of becoming socially excluded.

Research into legal capability continues a tradition that marks a crucial turn in helping us to understand more about how more people can be helped, and how to craft solutions that are fit for the future. This seam of research entails a shift in attention away from the tip of an iceberg (which is what happens from the perspective of the courts and legal professionals) in order to look at how social conflicts occur under the shadow of the law, to see how people can deal with them better and respond to the law in their lives.[25]

Although the study of legal capability is now attracting more research attention, Law for Life advised the Commission in strong terms that more investment is needed in those research opportunities, and that this investment should focus on multi-disciplinary research opportunities, including health, education, psychology as well as socio-legal research.

It said that the challenges we face in the United Kingdom are not unique, and solutions need to be tackled in concert with others. Innovation in delivering justice for the poor, in particular, has increased since the report of the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor was published in 2008.[26] Overseas programmes in middle income and developing contexts (particularly the growth of paralegalism, community based education and so on) mirror our efforts in this country.[27] Despite all this activity, much more needs to be done to bring those with limited means under the protection of the rule of law. More also needs to be done at a transnational level to share investment in innovation, and also in research on how to tackle the needs of what are increasingly mobile populations.

The links between legal need and law-making

Alongside a better understanding of the characteristics and competencies that make up legal capability, the links between legal need and law-making[28] need to be better understood. Legislative complexity and accelerated legislative activity impact disproportionately on vulnerable people. These people are reliant on the welfare state[29] and are the least well equipped to cope with the regulatory demands which unfold in their lives.

Given the continuing and increasing demands on the public to understand and make use of new legislation (often without the intervention of lawyers, and often in areas of law which are sensitive to political fluctuations), the need for a better grasp of the interrelationship between law-making and legal need is one of the challenges that we currently face.

Law for Life believes that law-making ought surely to carry with it the burden of responsibility for the costs arising from new laws. As a proportion of expenditure, the costs are unevenly distributed at the very top – towards courts and legal institutions, and towards the fight against crime. There is a direct correlation between the legislative function and the extent of legal need experienced by a population.

It also believes that from a pedagogical point of view it is critical that we take seriously the challenges posed by “juridification” in our teaching, and in the way in which we manage and curate legal information for the public.

The Legal Services Act 2007

It is obvious to the Commission that as things stand the cost of legal assistance is beyond the means of many, if not most, people.[30] The Legal Services Act 2007 recognised the challenges presented by the need for access to justice more generally, but it also charged the new Legal Services Board with the objective of promoting people’s knowledge and understanding of their rights and duties. While progress has been made in taking forward the objectives of the Act in the areas of competition and diversity,[31] it remains to be seen how the objective of increasing public understanding of legal rights and duties will be taken forward by the Legal Services Board.

Law for Life was therefore keen to see a coordinated and forward-looking response by the Legal Services Board, the regulators and the profession as a whole to fulfil that objective, taking into account the research that already exists into the needs of vulnerable populations, and in a spirit of tackling the problem in collaboration with the third sector, with a genuine emphasis on user voice.

It also believes that benefit would be gained by looking at the lessons learned in associated fields, most notably in the field of financial capability, which also had to tackle the problem of underlying exclusion arising from people’s lack of knowledge and skills. In that area it was possible to take the lead in designing a national strategy,[32] leveraging funding for financial capability strategies as a partnership between the financial services sector and Government.

Law for Life also strongly believes that there is also a need for innovation in the manner in which legal services are offered to the public. Traditional models of end-to-end legal services are expensive and out of reach for most individuals. Only around 6% of people on average access a lawyer when a legal problem occurs.17 Public legal education and information are key components in developing flexible and cost-effective solutions in which expert advice can be secured. There is an increasing need to offer more flexible arrangements for fixed-fee parcels of work which are supported by effective information and learning bridges.

For this reason it urged the Commission to look at what needs to be done to improve informational asymmetries to help people understand what services exist, as well as how they can use parts of the system in a cost-effective and empowered way. Technology will be a crucial part of that mix. However, in the last resort disseminating and targeting high-quality, impartial and independent information and learning to help individuals understand and navigate their problem is a solution in itself.

The new online court

Many of these issues were considered in the context of a move towards the launch of an online court, initially in the areas of family and civil money claims, following Lord Justice Briggs’s broad recommendations.[33] Law for Life provided input into the consultation process at interim and final stages. [34]

A broader, ‘digital-by-default’ intention will see a wider trend in the growing use of the internet as a way to solve legal problems. Internet use is on the rise – about 25% of the population uses the Internet to solve their legal problems now. This figure marks a 20% increase from a decade ago. However, not everyone is able to use online provisions effectively. While a great deal can be done online by individuals helping themselves now that there will be such a significant shift in the way justice is to be delivered, Law for Life is convinced that there will be a continuing need for people to have access to legal advice while they are on that journey.

It therefore welcomes the emphasis on the ‘assisted digital’ elements of the online court to ensure that assistance will be available to those who are digitally excluded, or who are struggling as a result of their health, poverty or literacy needs. It believes that the design of the system needs to be cognisant of patterns of legal capability, and that it also needs to understand problem characterisations – how they link to effective and early action, the role of confidence, and the patterns of behaviour we see in legal needs studies around the topic of problem resolution. It considers that these issues should be up front and central in the thinking behind the design of an online court.

PLE and the rule of law

The LASPO reforms also raise pressing questions about the role of PLE in the context of the rule of law. PLE sits in a somewhat uneasy position with regard to the formal requirement that rests on government to promulgate the law. The need to promulgate or publish law as part of the law-making function of any state is critical, and PLE is now increasingly filling the vacuum that was left in the wake of the demise of advice services, whether general or specialist. The provision of the information estate to help the public navigate legal issues may well fostering include their ability to challenge the State or individual public bodies.

Law for Life believes that there must be a thoughtful engagement with the way in which information and education is funded and delivered, with a constant awareness of the motivations of those who are providing legal information and the potential for conflicts of interest.   It urged the Commission to take into account the need for high-quality, independent legal information that the public can trust, and to ensure that this is achieved through funding models that work at arm’s length from government.


Replies to the Commission’s questions in its Interim Report

On page 20 of its Interim Report the Commission posed these two questions:

How can basic knowledge of fundamental legal entitlements become universal?

How can public legal education reach typically hard to reach groups, such as older and disabled people?


Law for Life answered them both together.  It said:

  1. Community-based work with trusted intermediaries was showing every sign of being an effective and scalable mechanism for reaching those groups who are least likely to be able to access justice effectively, and it should be capable of developing levels of knowledge and skills among people in vulnerable groups.   Early Law for Life pilot projects, in which its representatives worked alongside advice and community sector groups, showed the potential for substantial impacts. For example, data that was collected over two years through the Early Action Advice project it undertook with Community Links, in which 46 community champions from across the Newham area were trained, showed that:

Confidence in understanding of rights and obligations increased from 44% before the course to 88% at its end;

On the topic of people’s ability to identify legal problems in everyday issues, the response rate during the course rose from 53% to 91% of those who took part;

The community champions went on to support others in their community with their legal problems. 90% of the clients evaluated who were subsequently supported by Advice Champions said they felt more confident about dealing with their problems because of the support they received.2.



2. In the area of offline teaching[35], more needs to be done to reach priority groups in regional settings by segmenting and targeting vulnerable groups and focusing on areas of law which have left people struggling to cope.

3.Linking (and embedding) community teaching with updateable online resources that provide more detailed information about rights and duties is a cost-effective mechanism for reaching more people. Teaching the granular details of any area of law is largely pointless, since that law will inevitably change. What can be taught to good effect are concepts and skills that can be read across and that are adaptable to different areas of law.[36]

4.There is a need to build on and maintain a diverse provider base; both for legal information and to teach in community settings. There are too few practitioners and too few writers who can translate law in accessible and empowering ways. There should be a focus on growing a body of practitioners and ensuring there are accredited routes to jobs and training. To that end Law for Life has begun to embed public legal education in clinical settings which aim to teach undergraduate and postgraduate law students about the theory and practice of PLE. [37] For law schools, this model offers an innovative part of the curriculum, embeds the core legal skills of research, legal processes and legal systems, and provides insight into real life legal problems as well as how to tackle them. For participants, lawyers become less distant. Students of law both in the community and from law schools come together with the recognition that law can be learned and need not be a mystery, and that problems (and clusters of problems) can be unpacked and worked through collectively. A wider training programme for aspiring practitioners also needs to be envisaged as part of an advice model with accredited training routes. Ideally this would be fostered at some remove from casework and one-to-one advice.

5. There is a need to think about plurality and independence in the PLE provider base. The PLE sector recognises that some of the best information and education is delivered by those who are close to the communities and users that they serve. It also recognises that users need to be able to trust the quality, impartiality and independence of legal education and information.

6. More needs to be done to embed PLEI[38] into wider services and improve coordination of stakeholders. PLEI cannot be the sole responsibility of the legal sector; the inability to access help cuts right across the work of other sectors whether that is in social care, health or housing. If people cannot access services or fail to be able to protect their interests, the impacts fall on other service providers. Law for Life receives requests from social workers, youth providers, tenancy associations and even letting agents to join our training programmes. They lack budgets to be able to pay for PLE. A subsidy-based model needs to ideally bring together budgets in priority areas.

7. We need to build on clever delivery mechanisms. For example, after identifying that private renters were struggling to find accessible information, Law for Life designed a combined project with the aim of developing skills-based information on s21 evictions and disrepair. This was published nationally and distributed to target groups, such as London-based food banks. It then designed training sessions around those areas of law and provided them offline in London and Birmingham. An ‘information and education’ model, such as this one, that brings together key stakeholders embedded in both community settings and in the field of wider social and health provision, is urgently needed.

8. Building more interconnectivity in services is one of the ways to help users manage complex pathways through services and help. This can be achieved by training staff and volunteers and instilling legal capability skills in key access points. A broad awareness-raising campaign on key topics would also help to drive people to the quality resources that already exist.

9. An element of embedding on-and-offline solutions involves targeting non-legal helpers who have an awareness of the boundaries between legal advice and broader information and support. Law for Life relies heavily on intermediaries to reach the most vulnerable groups currently left without access to legal advice. Helping people understand how to avoid the risk of straying into legal advice is crucial. It teaches those boundaries by considering the difference between information, support and legal advice. It also gives examples of how to deal with the sort of questions people would ask that could push them over that boundary. Good practice standards should include an awareness of the difference between information, advice and support, with an agreed framework that provides concrete guidance for community helpers.

10. The PLE sector needs investment. All these recommendations can be brought under a broad umbrella of innovation funding, which would support new interventions alongside good evaluation to assess what works best. An innovation fund should be regarded as an investment that would save money in the long-term. Dedicated PLE funding is needed to reduce both the long-term costs on the public purse as well as the devastating impact legal problems have on individuals and their families.

PART II Responses of Lisa Wintersteiger to questions from Commissioners


Most of the funding for AdviceNow is secured through the Litigant in Person Strategy, and this funding was largely able to save the service. However, over-dependence on this one source of funding is unsatisfactory because although LIPs have huge needs, others have needs, too, which we are not able to satisfy. It is also “year-on-year funding”, which means that we are not able to plan ahead.

On the back of this grant funding, which constitutes about one third of our total income, we have been able to secure a fair bit of work for individual pieces of information provision, and also for information consultancy, and this leads us on to making applications to trust funds and other grant-making bodies for key pieces of work. This is how we funded the development of the PIP tool.

Because our funding is so insecure, we have now started to test “paid for” models, because it is so important that we look after the information estate we have created. This initiative is based on the premise that some people are able to pay for some of our content. This fosters our ability to maintain the information base free of charge for the very poor.

A recent experiment, developed with innovation funding from the Legal Education Foundation, involved testing a premium model in which higher paying users are able to subsidise vulnerable users. Very early results suggest that people have been willing to pay the largest sum we suggested, largely on an honesty box basis. This helps to subsidise the people who are paying a smaller sum, and also those who ask us for a free vulnerable user guide. As a result of this initiative requests for these guides have increased, which is all to the good. We are developing this model as a way of attracting cross-subsidy for those areas of our work where we know we are not attracting sufficient funding, to the detriment of our poorest users – developing ESA[39] help, for instance. But more needs to be done to put things on a stable basis.

Our relationship with Government

The Ministry of Justice probably does not know how good we are, but this is one of the problems of institutional memory at a time when they have been experiencing so many staff contractions over such a short period of time. We brief one civil servant on what we do, only to be told “it’s fantastic” but then he/she moves on, and we have to brief another, and another.

Government bodies also create great problems with links. Whenever we are told by a user that one of our links has died, the answer usually lies with HMCTS[40] and not with a private sector information provider.

We work very hard to try and build up a relationship with government – to show them the importance of the interrelationship between their traffic and ours, and of establishing links. We have been particularly successful in the family law field. This represents our largest user base, and we do remind government of our resources. As a result traffic does come across.

What government has not managed to do so well is to understand our model. They don’t understand that the business of creating information is highly skilled, and that it has huge value as such. You do not want to create a monolithic information site. They keep suggesting to us: “We need another website – We need to expand people’s choices,” but we really don’t. The best information is often designed by the people who work closest to our users and who know their needs. Yes, we need a plurality of information services, but we also need to help people get to them, and this is a job in itself.

On the LIP engagement groups, the civil servants say, “We don’t really understand LIPs’ needs”, and we have to refer them once again to the reports on the topic we have produced in past years. We work closely with LIPs on their information needs, so that this failure of institutional memory is a product of the speed of change, but I do bother when I am asked so often “What do you mean by that?”

Relations with Citizens Advice (CA)

We know that CA workers at their local offices use our AdviceNow service a lot. They rely heavily on our information, and we get great feedback from them. And when there is good information on the CA website Advice Guide we are delighted to link to it. There is no need for us to produce something which is already there and is really good. This is, however, not always the case with Advice Guide material.

This relationship with their local offices means that they have some of their own information, but they can also use ours, and go elsewhere, too, where it’s better. From our perspective we don’t see this as competition, because we exist to fill gaps: we are not there to take over the world, and we don’t have local service providers. Our model is different from theirs. Inevitably when major reforms are introduced there is some sense of competition. It would perhaps be good to achieve better liaison and combined strategies at a national level in order to make sure we are meeting the needs of all our users.

The support we receive from Citizens Advice workers is generated locally: it is not driven by advice from senior management.

The arguments for and against a central portal

I agree that there are now so many different organisations offering different products and different information in different ways that it can be really confusing. There could be some merit in raising the profile for a central portal, and this is an issue I have come across when I study what is going on abroad. But if you try to homogensie through one portal there is a real danger that you would lose the plurality of the ecosystem. I think there are strengths and weaknesses in a model of that kind.

At present we don’t focus on the different mechanisms that need to be there to raise the public’s capability levels. Perhaps we should ask “What are the key bits that help do that? Would it be through a central portal?” I don’t know the answer.

At the moment we provide advice, but people come out at the other end without having improved their capabilities in any way. Research[41] tells us that in the commercial market repeat players in the system do brilliantly. They learn how to use the system at the pre-litigation stage, and also during the course of proceedings, and their interests are looked after. Repeat players in our civil system, on the other hand, are individuals, and we are not building their capabilities to cope as individuals. What we are seeing is a declining impact for them in the sense of empowerment, so we are not even helping them on their journey. I think we’re getting this badly wrong.

The reason why I am reluctant to discuss the question of a central portal is that it always tends to detract. It pushes funding off, and as a result it loses some of the really clever things that are going on.

Work with disadvantaged groups

What is nice about the AdviceNow model is that we are delighted to be showing people what is good elsewhere. We don’t want to be taking over the world of information ourselves. We would, however, like to do more targeted information work, and this is where we are now getting more commissions.   For example, we are now looking at the hugely difficult topic of consent in young people considering gender transitioning.   Some groups need information and learning designs that are really tailored to their needs.

We want to do more by way of being commissioned to assist these groups to do this work. We have worked with Roma communities in the past, and we are now looking at working with them again. Nothing generic works for group like these. You have to work hand in hand with users and with the people supporting them and create information and learning solutions that are utterly tailored to their needs.   If you get this right, you get change, and you can scale within these groups, but what you provide must be really carefully tailored.

I cannot lay enough stress on how expert this work is.   It takes years and years of ability to build to this scale, and I have been successful in holding on to my team.   It is really hard to recruit people to do this stuff. But it certainly can be done. Part of the solution for vulnerable groups is good information and learning design. Their needs won’t be met by work. Intensive design interventions are needed, and funding pots have to be there to support this work.

Innovation overseas

I am not aware of any large pot of innovation funding in the PLE field overseas. I have worked a lot with an organisation in Ontario which has managed to bring together quite a nice model. They are helped because their federal system is quite good in bringing together research funders, government and the broader advice and PLE sector to pool their funding to come up with some solid solutions. The Law and Justice Foundation did a systemic review of PLE and PLE interventions in order to discover work that was seen to have impact. They found only two major interventions which could form part of their ultimate study, because of questions of rigour. This is not to say that none of the other interventions they looked at didn’t show signs of success.

Some of these innovations spread right across from community-based teaching on the one hand to in-court work helping with family settlements and managing to reduce conflict in court settings on the other, and there has also been some good work looking at some of these interventions.

The picture of what we have seen in this country is mirrored elsewhere, as legal aid has largely decreased during times of financial crisis. Sadly, there has been no investment in those areas of work where it is really needed.

A national debate about rule of law issues

I think that at the moment there is some sensitivity to questions more broadly about the rule of law. The last Lord Chancellor, Liz Truss, talked about the challenge that judges should be taking up in educating the public about law and order in order to fight off public perceptions about their being enemies of the people. There is genuine concern about a real lack of understanding about the broader justice system, and what this does to the rule of law in this country. I think there is a conversation going on here.

I think there is also a real conversation going on about the online court, and it was great to see Lord Justice Briggs placing PLE in his review. However, during my conversations with HMCTS I have yet to see evidence of his ideas being put into operation.

I worry because we are focusing on the moment of litigation and the need to produce information about this alone. PLE forms part of the information bridge, and if you really want to be successful in early resolution and avoid people being driven to the courts, step ten paces back. This means PLE, and it is a cost-saving proposition.

I think there is partly a concern about the fact that the commercial legal sector is a huge part of our GDP, and we want to be seen as a world leading player in the realm of law.

On the other hand, we are now seeing some challenges because people are unable to access the justice system, and I think this is also an important narrative for us to be pursuing.

How the financial capability strategy was developed

I had a really interesting conversation with someone who was leading on the financial capability strategy. I asked her “How did you operationalize the objectives for the Financial Services Authority that underpin lack of knowledge and skills?” What was remarkable about that journey was that there was a sense of leadership between the professionals and the regulators. They both said that they needed to take the area seriously and do something about it.

They came together with a strategy, initially for a five-year period, to look at financial capability mechanisms, and they were able to leverage the sector. There were already bankers doing pro bono work in schools and so on, but the financial services sector saw that their reputation depended on undertaking pro bono work as well as investing (and imposing a lev for this purpose), and this levying then brought levying from the Cabinet Office, too, which created meaningful funds with which to move forward.

We should create a journey and ask ourselves: “If we take on something with this scale, how do we work to do it, and what are some of the models we can look at?” So far as financial capability was concerned, I asked which single programme stood out most, and I received the answer “Catching people at key moments when you can make a difference”.   Working with the Royal College of Midwives introduced them to key teachable moments.

So you must make sure that the investment you bring in and the narratives that sit behind it are really about the areas where you can see the impact with the right policies. There are good models to follow.   Although it is such a big problem, and concern is always expressed on the question “Where on earth do we begin?” there are always places to begin, and there isn’t just one narrative. I think there are different pieces of that.

The Legal Services Act and PLE

As things stand, it would certainly make sense to bring people who are enthused about PLE onto the Legal Services Board. But we have seen no movement by the Board to take PLE forward, and there seems to be a sense now that “We don’t quite know what to do with tis. What we want is more empowered consumers of legal services in order to access a latent legal market.”

There may be some truth in this, but it can’t be right that the only solution is one about driving business. This is not good for the reputation of the profession, and it is certainly not good for the public.

The more I look at the forming of the Legal Services Act and the motivations that sit behind that piece of legislation, the more I question whether this is the right place for a statutory objective to achieve something like PLE. I think there is a conflict here.

There is clearly a need for people to understand how they use the services of the legal profession, and clearly a role for the legal profession there.   But I do worry because information and education sits in the category of reserved activity, and what do we do with standards then? At the moment anyone can design information for the public about the law with total impunity, and how is the public supposed to trust this? There is a potential conflict when a law firm is producing information.

I think this is a conflicted space. Maybe we need to make the best of what we have now, and do this collectively (including civil society).   But there remains a question in my mind about whether this is the right place for the statutory objective for our work.

The new breed of advisers and trusted helpers

We are seeing a change in the career paths. Since the start of the liberalisation of the market we have already seen a growth in paralegals in this country. Overseas I see organisations like Namati in Sierra Leone and a number of other jurisdictions where plainly one of the solutions is to build a cohort of paralegals: barefoot lawyers, if you like.

I am worried that it is completely pointless to have a sector which is too heavily regulated when it is barely out its infancy. This is just going to stifle innovation and it flies right in the face of deregulation’s direction of travel.   I don’t think there is any ambition to do this.

I do worry about quality, however.   I think the answer is to talk about good practice standards which we would want to achieve as a sector and which the profession would also want to be aiming towards. This is a carrot, not a stick. Of course we want to protect the public and the particularly vulnerable public, and I deeply understand the concerns about unregulated practice of law.

It is interesting to look back at the first legal needs study, conducted by a Harvard professor in 1939. The worry at that time was that there were unregulated areas of law competing with the work of the Bar. This was the first study that found that it wasn’t that everybody was competing for it: in fact, nobody was serving these people. The journey started then, and we do a lot about helping intermediaries to understand the boundaries around information, giving support, and what legal advice is.

It can’t be right that our anxieties are placed in the realm of risk for the public when in fact 90% of the public is doing it on its own, or with somebody helping them who has got absolutely no idea.

I think we must balance the problem of risk and quality with the facts on the ground: the fact that we know from legal needs studies that most people are on their own. We teach people and say what you can do and where you will overstep the mark, and why that is dangerous. Where people are willing to help – it may be just a vicar helping someone, for example – we explain what is legal advice and what isn’t. We explain what you can do until you reach a point where the risk goes too far. I think it is all about having that emphasis and that balance.

(2) Evidence: The Citizenship Foundation

Date of Session: 21 June 2017

For more than a quarter of a century, the Citizenship Foundation has helped young people in the UK to be active, engaged and motivated citizens – able to make a positive contribution to their communities. Their work covers a range of activities designed to achieve this:

  • Mock Trials competitions which help young citizens to experience the legal justice system first hand, so that they develop an understanding of the rule of law and how this helps underpin our democracy.
  • Young Citizens Passport which provides a guide to the law as it affects young people, and has been distributed to millions of young citizens over the past two decades.
  • Make a Difference Challenge programmes which help primary school children to take social action on issues they care about most, so they learn the skills of advocacy and the confidence of agency.
  • Lesson plans on Brexit issues designed to help teachers to engage young citizens in the big issues about Brexit – citizens’ rights, negotiations, the role of Parliament and the courts, and the role of the media.

PART I – Written Submission

June 2017

The current challenges faced by our democracy – such as the polarisation of society, and the erosion of faith in the democratic process to effect positive change – means that this is not ‘business as usual’ for the Foundation. It is vitally important that all young people have the opportunities to develop the knowledge, skills and confidence needed to be active citizens. We have set ourselves four goals for the coming decade – each of which involves a significant scaling up of the impact and reach of our work:

Providing interactive, topical and relevant citizenship learning opportunities –used by more than half of UK schools each year, by 2027

Providing authentic experiences of being an active citizen – for more than 200,000 young people each year, by 2027

Working with intermediaries – upskilling teachers and involving professionals – over 10,000 each year, by 2027

Campaigning for the importance of young people having opportunities to learn what it takes to be an active citizen – with a national consensus, by 2027

The importance of Public Legal Education for citizenship

For the Citizenship Foundation, legal capability is an essential element for active citizenship. Public Legal Education (PLE) helps young citizens develop the ability to recognise when they might be faced with a legal problem or challenge. It then helps them develop their knowledge – such as how the legal justice system works; skills – such as being aware of what to do when faced with legal issues; and confidence – to make use of the legal justice system to protect rights.

Current changes to the legal system make the need for PLE especially crucial at this time. The restrictions to legal aid, the massive increase in litigants in person, and the digitisation of the courts system all mean that in future there will be an increasing onus on individuals to navigate the legal system on their own. Without the necessary knowledge, skills and confidence to do so effectively, people will be denied access to justice.

The Citizenship Foundation has developed a ‘Legal Capability Framework’, setting out the competences which young people need to possess in order to be able to exercise their rights and responsibilities as citizens. We are beginning to use this framework to measure the impact of our interventions – through means of a questionnaire before and after interventions.

PLE also plays a significant role in improving social mobility, by helping break down the barriers to the legal profession. There are many ‘alumni’ from the Citizenship Foundation PLE programmes who have gone into a career in the legal justice system as a result of their contact with lawyers and others.

The work of the Citizenship Foundation to support PLE

Our PLE work can best be categorised under four headings:

1.Learning opportunities

  • We provide resources on legal issues for use by non-specialist teachers – which are engaging, discussion-based, and skill-building.
  • Immersion days – we run conferences, led by leading barristers, on legal issues and the legal justice system for students, to help them develop skills such as advocacy and critical thinking.

2.Citizenship experiences

  • With the support of the legal profession and the HMCTS, we run Mock Trial competitions, based in real court rooms – giving thousands of students first-hand experiences of courts, and the justice system, with opportunities to meet professionals such as judges, magistrates and court staff, and to develop their knowledge and skills. Around 2,000 legal professionals are engaged in these experiences.

3. Intermediaries

  • We provide teacher training for non-specialist teachers – either through workshops, school twilight sessions, or in INSET days.
  • Supported by 40 corporate partners from the legal sector, we support legal professionals to deliver training to students on a wide range of legal issues of interest to young citizens.

4. Advocating for a national consensus on the need to help young people be active citizens

  • We are a lead player in the development of a PLE group, supported by the Solicitor General’s Office. This has been slightly delayed due to the General Election. This group is developing a set of shared goals for PLE operatives and the legal sector.

Citizenship in schools

An essential element in the provision of PLE for young citizens is to ensure that all schools have the support and motivation to teach high quality Citizenship. Citizenship was introduced as a statutory national curriculum foundation subject in secondary schools in 2002, and whilst it is pleasing that the subject of Citizenship has been retained in the National Curriculum following the review under the Coalition government, we are concerned at the watering down of the support mechanisms for schools. For example:

  • The great uncertainty surrounding the future of the subject in the last curriculum review led to many schools axing the provision in the expectation that this would be the outcome, including its specialist teachers. The revised curriculum content, whilst retaining legal education, has an over-emphasis on knowledge compared to the equally important components of skills development and experiential opportunities.
  • Academies and free schools are not required to follow the national curriculum, and as a result many do not teach Citizenship. This – combined with changes to Ofsted inspection processes which means that Citizenship is no longer inspected as a subject – means that whilst many schools would wish to teach Citizenship, other subjects are prioritised because that is where the focus of attention has been placed. Citizenship has been squeezed.
  • Support for training for Citizenship teaching has plummeted. The number of trainee Citizenship teachers has fallen from 240 in 2010 to just 54 in 2016. Training bursaries are no longer available.
  • Support for intermediary organisations, which in turn support schools to provide PLE, has plummeted. The Citizenship Foundation is a case in point – our funding from central government has fallen from 60% of our income to virtually 0% – with us now needing to charge schools for our support. With the squeeze on school budgets affecting those elements they consider ‘nice to have’ rather than essential, this makes it very difficult to provide the support which schools need.

Measures which need to be taken

We believe that the following measures would provide the support to ensure that high quality PLE is provided for all young people:

  1. Ofsted should be asked to provide a renewed focus on Citizenship, reporting on the standard of teaching, and highlighting best practice for schools. This would provide the space which schools need to give a renewed priority to Citizenship.
  2. Government should renew its support the subject of Citizenship, including through support for teacher training – through bursaries and CPD for non-citizenship teachers. This would provide the clarity of leadership which is currently lacking.
  3. Government should provide support to intermediary organisations, in order that they can in turn support schools. This would include the National Justice Museum, the Association of Citizenship Teaching, and ourselves. This would help those schools which do not have the budget to pay for high quality citizenship resources.
  4. There should be clear lines of responsibility within Government for PLE – which we believe should ultimately sit with the Ministry of Justice, with support from the Department for Education and the Attorney General’s Office. This would avoid the current situation where PLE falls between different government departments, and so there is no clear lead.
  5. Legal profession should continue, and grow, its support for PLE – with funding and pro bono support for intermediary bodies – and a wider range of options for support for different types of legal firms.
  6. Multi-academy trusts, which in many cases now provide the support to schools which used to be provided by local authorities, should engage with PLE and help to support their schools in its provision.
  7. Agreed collective goals for PLE operatives should be put in place, along the lines of those already drafted, led by Government, and be responsive to the changing needs of the public, to ensure the rule of law upheld. This would help identify gaps in provision and avoid duplication between organisations.


PART II – Oral Submission

21 June 2017

Citizenship Foundation represented by: Tom Franklin (CEO) and Ruth Dwight (Programme Director, Corporate Partnerships)

Our roots are very much in Public Legal Education, helping young people understand what the law and the legal justice system is all about. Our role as an organisation is to help young people become active, engaged and motivated young citizens who are able to contribute positively to their community and to make a positive difference.

We do this through a series of different programmes, many of which are related to understanding and taking part in the law. Their aim is to help young people to develop the knowledge of the legal justice system, the skills that they need in terms of critical thinking and advocacy, and the confidence to use their knowledge and their skills in order to effect change, to protect their rights and understand their responsibilities.

We do it through providing learning experiences. We will take issues such as Brexit and all the legal issues around it – what Article 50 is and who has the right to trigger it, and the separation of powers between the judiciary and the legislature and the executive – and we use these topical examples to help to bring the law alive for young people, to explain the different responsibilities of the different arms of government, and why these things are so important.

We are also involved in helping teachers. Many of them are interested in helping young people in this area, but they don’t have the expertise they will need to help their students with it.

We do our work through providing very practical citizenship experiences.   We run a series of programmes around mock trials. We take over courtrooms at the weekend where, with the support of HMCTS and a huge amount of support from the legal profession, young people will take on the various roles in cases – as the prosecutor, the jury, or the defendant. They will act out cases, and in this way they will learn how the justice system works as well.

We also run programmes where we link legal experts with schools, so that lawyers can go into schools to run the sessions that Andrew Phillips[42] started 50 years ago, taking aspects of the law that are of particular interest to young people. So, whether the topic is consumer rights or social media and other issues like that, we will help young people to understand the law as it affects them as well.

The reason why we do all this is because we believe that young people have a right to capabilities around their role as citizens, including a level of legal capability as well. They have the right to learn what it takes to be an active engaged citizen in the same way that they have a right to learn the basics in terms of mathematics and history and so on. It’s something they are not going to pick up by osmosis; they need it through the education system. Over the years and particularly in recent years, there has been a move towards making sure that this is very much part of what happens in schools.

For various reasons this tradition has been weakened over the last few years. With the changes that are taking place in terms of the undermining of the confidence of democratic society in the institutions that make it up, and the changes that have taken place in the legal justice system – and in access to justice as well – we believe there is a growing gap between what is needed for young people and what they are actually being provided with.

This is the picture at the broader level. One of the things we are doing is that we are starting to undertake a more rigorous examination of where young people are in terms of their legal capabilities, both at the start of some of our programmes and then as they progress through them as well.

The programmes we have been running for over 25 years now reach about 8,500 young people each year. As there are so many of them, and as we ask most of them to undertake some kind of evaluation as part of their participation in our programmes, we came to think that what we’ve got there is a fantastic opportunity to do a baseline study of young people’s legal capability of a kind that doesn’t really exist at present.

Law for Life will have told you about the results from the Civil and Social Justice Panel Survey and the work they have been doing with Professor Pleasence on that. Most of that work starts at the age of 16, so that there is still very little known about the legal capability of young people, and particularly about how that data might segment: for example, how young people from less advantaged backgrounds might fare in their legal capability compared with others. Our hunch is that you need to separate out all the different elements within legal capability. You might find, for example, that some young people who for whatever reasons have more experience of crime might actually have more knowledge of it.   Whether it is correct knowledge or not is also up for question. This is at present all untested.

Because this is the sort of thing we wanted to test, we started to work with Professor Pleasence, using the legal capability framework that he and Law for Life have been developing over the years to build a set of questions that could ask young people about their levels of legal capability. This is a challenge because the Civil and Social Justice Panel Survey used people who had already experienced a legal problem and asked them how they dealt with it.   A lot of people thought it was bad luck why these things happened to them, and they were asked if they could have been prevented, whereas most young people haven’t necessarily encountered a legal problem.

In our questions we ask people who haven’t had experience of a legal problem what they might do in certain situations. This is not as valid or robust as it could be, which is why this first stage of our work has a kind of pilot element.

We have just come to the end of most of the interventions in the programme. There are still a few sessions going on because we are coming to the end of the summer term, and we are just starting to pull some of that data together at an early level. One of the interesting bits of data we have got was that we asked every young person to define what a legal right is: “What is your right?” We hear on the news a lot of people saying that young people just bang on about their rights all the time, so we asked what a young person actually think their right is. 50% of them got it right and 50% got it wrong.

That was before the programme started, and it was quite a spilt. After our interventions – and we don’t go in and teach people this is what is a legal right is (it’s a bit broader than that) – the percentage of people who got the answer correct increased by 20%.   So we are making some impact. This is early days for us, but it’s quite an encouraging and exciting bit of data. In due course we will have more, and we will be happy to share it as more comes out.

We have described in our paper a set of measures that we believe would help. We have been working with groups like Law for Life and others that we are very close to, to draw up a clear sort of framework in terms of objectives for PLE as well which we can all work towards.   We have also been involved in helping to set up the group on PLE which will be under the direction of the Solicitor General’s office. We see this as a platform on which we can move some of these issues forward.

One of our big concerns is that PLE is an issue that falls between different government departments. We’ve got a very good advocate in the Solicitor General who has shown his personal commitment to PLE, but because of the nature of his position and the resources at his disposal, his influence is very limited. We believe it is important that it should be the MOJ that sees PLE as fundamental to the work they do. They should be given the very clear role of leading on it, with the support of the Attorney General’s office and the DfE.

The MOJ also has a role in making sure that the profession as a whole is playing its part, and this includes the various regulatory bodies.   There is a statutory requirement for the different bodies in terms of PLE, and the amount of effort that they put into it presents a fairly mixed picture. This is another issue where leadership is needed from the government. This means the MOJ.

The regulatory bodies (the SRA, the Bar Standards Board and so on) have a duty to promote public legal education, and we haven’t seen a great deal of this. There is now a rising interest in it. The Legal Choices website they have produced collectively seems to be the first step in that direction. They are interested in reaching other audiences through this website. We have had some early conversations on the topic, although we think the way in which that website or that group can influence a younger audience will be quite a slow burner.

For the last 25 years the Bar Council has supported the Mock Trial competition we run. The Law Society has funded the Citizenship Foundation ever since its inception, and they also funded the very early Law and Education Project resources that went into schools. CILEx have started some conversations with us as well. This presents more difficulties because of the status of legal executives within organisations, but there are certainly opportunities there.

One of the things we are developing which we think will help – particularly with the larger law firms – are their corporate responsibility objectives. There are corporate responsibility budgets, and as a result our Lawyers In Schools programme (which places groups of lawyers from a particular law firm into a school) is fully brokered with resources, training and evaluations, which all cost money.

This possibility is really limited to the larger law firms or the larger chambers. But there has always been a lot of interest from the smaller firms and from individual barristers and legal executives. This is why we are developing a web-based matching service so that legal professionals can register their interest in volunteering in schools, and schools can register their interest. They can then find each other.

In addition to human resources, a lot of the cost involved is in getting on the phone and trying to get hold of a teacher in a school. Even though the interest is there, for obvious reasons the teachers are in school teaching, so that we think it will help if achieving direct contact is made as easy as possible.

Interestingly though, even at the big firms, although corporate responsibility objectives are now so much more strategic than they ever used to be, there are still no law firms at all as far as we are aware who have chosen public legal education as one of their strategic objectives. We think there is a huge opportunity there for leadership within the sector from the first firm which comes out and says it thinks this is one of the answers to access to justice. We are therefore prioritising this through our corporate responsibility campaign in the same way that the financial sector did pretty successfully with personal finance education.

We find it hard to understand why this hasn’t happened already, but there are a lot of other competing priorities. The “charity of the year” needs to be something that is understandable and client-facing and popular with staff. Perhaps PLE is still felt to be a poorer cousin of pro bono, but as the interest in it is rising at a policy level, then it is perhaps the kind of thing the corporates are set to follow.   Just as there was some sensitivity around pro bono I don’t think it can be something that the corporate sector is told to do. It’s got to be more of a carrot than a stick. But I think there is a huge impact that the profession can make.

As for the Bar, the Bar Council has sponsored the Bar Mock Trial Competition for a long time. We also have a few chambers participating in our programmes, and I think 1,000 individual barristers each year support our Mock Trial Competition across the UK. But it tends to be a kind of one-off contribution. You know they’ll go in, and they’ll mentor a school to help it prepare for mock trials.

We have also started developing Mock Trial Conferences which are reaching out to young people who wouldn’t necessarily take part in the competitive element of a competition. The conferences are advocacy master classes with leading barristers where students go for £20 per head and they can learn their skills. These should be open to a wide range of young people – not just those that are interested in becoming budding barristers, but also those who want things like advocacy and communication skills.


PART III   Answers to questions from Commissioners

The need for a Government lead on PLE, and the role of the Department of Education

The results will be sub-optimal unless the Department of Education gets involved in joined up activity with the Ministry of Justice. This problem happens in all sorts of other spheres as well, where it can be very difficult for other government departments to engage the DfE in areas they are trying to promote through education.

Although PLE is not now being led by the MOJ, it certainly isn’t going to be led by the DfE, but there does need to be engagement from the DfE. We make a strong plea that the focus should be on Citizenship as the route to achieve this because it’s there in the national curriculum. It’s very clear that Citizenship covers legal issues and the justice system as well. The key role the DfE can play is to give more support to teaching Citizenship as such. In a sense, it’s there for schools, but what the schools need is the support to make it come alive, to use the mechanisms that are already there. It’s that which has been lost, and this makes it very difficult for schools to carry on with this.

At the moment it feels that nobody in government is leaning on PLE, so that although there was a time that the MOJ was starting to, the impression that we get is that this has gone, with all the other things that the MOJ used to do, because of other pressures.

We were quite pleased just before the Election when there was a promise in the Green Paper which included a commitment to PLE. This was probably the most promising sign we have had in many years. When Liz Truss was giving evidence to the Justice Select Committee she mentioned PLE happening. We had a joint All-Party Parliamentary Group meeting after that, when we were told that the Solicitor General, would be taking the lead, but the Attorney General’s office said this was probably not quite the case. I think no one is quite sure who is responsible there.

It is a promising step forward that the Solicitor General’s working party on PLE is now arranging its first meeting. We are pleased they have taken that initiative, but nothing concrete has come out of it yet.

The first meeting was due to happen the day before the Election, so we’ve had to postpone it. But I welcome the opportunity of bringing it under the Solicitor General in the chair.


Funding has changed dramatically over the last few years. In 2010 60% of our income came from Central Government grants. The bulk of it came from social action funding as the breadth of the Citizenship Foundation’s work covers more than just PLE. That is now virtually zero. A significant bit of the gap has been made up through charging schools a higher level of fee to take part, and we try and cross-subsidise this through other means, through other grants, through support from corporates, particularly law firms and so on.

But we are asking schools to contribute more and more, and this is creating a difficulty, of course, because of the schools’ budgets. They don’t have a designated pot of money for this, and all the other pressures in terms of schooling as well make it very difficult. Even if their budget hasn’t yet been cut, they feel as if they are about to be cut, so they are holding onto everything and delaying the decisions.

When citizenship came into the National Curriculum. a ten year longitudinal study was conducted, and one of the things the government did was to make sure that there was also proper funding to research how it was being implemented. One of the findings was that where there was high quality teaching, you got high quality results, but where there weren’t specialist teachers – where the physics teacher was being asked to do it – not surprisingly the students didn’t learn very much and they had very low opinions of it as well. It was absolutely critical to ensure that it was imbedded that.

The numbers going into Citizenship training have now plummeted, but there is also the other issue, which has always been the case, that there will be a large number of non-specialist teachers teaching Citizenship. The ongoing support and training is not there, as it is not being supported by the DfE in a way that is the case with other subjects as well.

As a result, although Citizenship is in the National Curriculum, all that framework – the support scaffolding – has been ignored and neglected over these years. It is also the case that in more and more schools outside the local authority-maintained system it is being consistently ignored. The things that would mean that those schools would focus on it, such as the inspection regime, have also been emasculated.

Support for teachers

One of our largest programmes was our mock trial competition which by its very nature was held in criminal courts on criminal cases. Over the years, and probably much more over the last year or two, we have also built up resources for schools on a much wider range, and this links into supporting teachers who are able to teach this. Most of the non-specialist teachers we talk to say “I am terrified to do this, I don’t know how to do it.”

Whilst this should be within the Citizenship curriculum – and we need to build that up – there is also a cross-cutting duty called “SMSC”[43] across all types of schools, be they academies, free schools or independent schools. SMSC is now Ofsted-inspected, and there is an element within it which is the duty to promote fundamental British values within schools. Within that framework there will be teaching about the concept of the rule of law, of right and wrong, and of morals and obligations, rights and duties.

So what we are doing also falls within that, and this has helped us to encourage schools to send someone from their school on teacher training. We say: “How are you going to deliver SMSC in your school? How are you going to ensure that you are able to get through your Ofsted inspection because if you are not doing this well you are going to fail your Ofsted?” This helps, but it is not as robust or as broad as the Citizenship Curriculum.

In order to help teachers with civil justice issues we have adapted a lot of the volunteer resources for our Lawyers in Schools programme into lesson plans for teachers. There is now a wider range of lesson plans available through our SmartLaw website[44] and we’re selling these to teachers,. Some of them are free as a kind of taster. For example, we did one that was published by the Bar Council about what Article 50 was.

We are also charging for resources on things like housing law or unemployment. We are currently – it’s not civil so much – doing a broader range of resources. So we are doing some work around displaced people and what it means to be a migrant, or what might be the reasons why people want to move from place to place.   We have also done resources around social media and the law around defamation and things like that. So there is a much wider range now

Civil justice activities

One of the things we are interested in developing is how we can use the mock trial model for civil – mock tribunals, for example. It would be great if we could. Where it’s brilliant is that we start to work together as a sector. We have shared goals with specialist organisations in those areas, such as advice agencies, who know where the biggest issues are – the biggest unknowns for people coming into these situations. By this means we can make sure that we are preparing young people to deal with those issues and situations as they arise or to prevent them in the first place.

The challenge of accessing every type of young person, and not only the highly competitive

There are always groups of schools that are more inclined to take up our services than other groups, and this is an issue we are constantly trying to address. By their very nature our mock trial competitions are competitions, and we also see the schools that are drawn to encouraging budding lawyers. A big secondary outcome of what we do is social mobility around the law – helping young people gain their skills by trying out being a lawyer – although this is not our main goal. It is not the reason why we do it, but it’s a big reason why a lot of young people take part.

Even if we get across to schools, are we getting to all the young people that we should be getting to? In the mock trials you certainly see that the students that come forward are often the most confident, capable or high achieving. How do get through to others?   One way of doing this is by creating the resources, so that teachers then deliver them across their schools. How do we encourage teachers from schools that wouldn’t normally be prioritising this to do so? I think some of this has to come from up high as well as from our point of view, finding all the hooks that we can – for example, our mock trial conference or the kind of barrister advocacy master class we are currently pitching. This is great for young people as something to put on their UCAS form, for example, if they are applying for University or for interview preparation, even though that is selective.

All our mock trial competitions are for state schools only, by the very nature of the way they are funded. We have started a completely separate independent schools mock trial competition because there was always an interest there, and it’s income generating for us, which enables us to subsidise others. This is why we are keeping it as a small part of what we do. But although the schools who take part are non-fee paying, a fair number of them tend to be grammar schools or some of the more high achieving schools. This is something we are working very hard to address. For example, this year we have a strategy for marketing the mock trials specifically to some of the areas where there are social mobility cold spots.

We have looked at the cold spots and thought: Can we do something, in terms of the whole range of different things that we provide, to give this added incentive: can we reduce the costs for areas where there are cold spots? One of the problems is that the government has got 16 cold spots, but there are others underneath the top layer. There are a lot of schools in those 16, but then there are the next 100 or so where there isn’t any additional support going in. We have been thinking: “Are there any other particular grants that we are not applying for?” We are focusing more on those areas as well.

It is really hard to tell whether of the services we sell, there are any distinctions between the schools that purchase our services because it’s early days now that we’ve started selling them. I don’t know if we can learn from the primary schools where we’ve been selling our resources, and from our subscription model, (which has a broader range of Citizenship education and not just PLE). We don’t know if we know the answer yet. The evidence so far is quite limited. One of the things we are working on is to identify the demographics of the schools that are buying our services and comparing them to those that aren’t. We hope that this will be clearer within the next year.   One thing that does seem to come through is that schools that have more freedom because they are judged to be performing well through the inspection regime are more likely to engage than those that are struggling with more of the basics. You might say that the latter schools, and the pupils they have, could very well be the ones who would particularly benefit from the things that we do, so there is a sort of inverse relationship there.

Through our legal capability evaluation we are trying to understand where we need to target and what we need to target in some areas so we can be a bit more focused.

A lot of teachers are very enthusiastic about the type of things that we do. However, because there are pressures on schools in the way they are measured by the league tables – with the very narrow academic focus at the moment – we want to encourage anything that can be done that gives schools and teachers the excuse to focus more on the things we are talking about here and will encourage them to do something. It’s not that they don’t want to: it’s that they are driven in a certain way by the very, very narrow sort of tramlines they are on.

Other programmes involving schools

As far as we know there isn’t any co-ordination between programmes which involve the Supreme Court or judges or parliamentarians or other groups of people going into schools. There is probably something there – not just within the PLE area but in others as well – where more co-ordination would probably be helpful for schools.   We have had discussions with others – for instance the PSHE[45] Association – about issues outside the schools’ narrow academic area, such as how we can help them with better sign-posting to all the different options that might be there. I think there is a need for greater collaboration across these matters.

We send other experts into schools as well. We provide financial experts to help young people understand how the economy works, and we are having conversations with the Local Government Association about getting councillors into schools to help young people understand how local democracy works.   I think a greater level of conversation could help schools a lot.

Quite a lot of judges have wanted to go into schools. Some of them do a fantastic job and some less so, but not for lack of trying. I think it really comes down to “I couldn’t do their job,” and so putting a judge into a school takes some really great interactive resources. There is a huge amount of enthusiasm there, with a pilot project being funded by the Civil Justice Council a few years ago. We produced three resources that were piloted in a few schools in Leeds and evaluated. There is no reason why these resources can’t be made available, and we are already thinking about putting those up on our website anyway.   And there are definitely other groups.

The new web-based matching service

We haven’t yet had an offer that was suitable for Legal Aid lawyers because our offer to get solicitors into schools is cost prohibitive. This is why we’re developing this web-based matching service. It has been a long time coming. We have been trying to develop something that enables smaller firms and Legal Aid lawyers to be able to participate in the work where there isn’t a nice big Corporate Responsibility pot but where there is a willingness and a day job that is probably more relevant to what they are actually delivering to the schools, than what Allen and Overy do[46].

It all costs money to bring this together without making it cost prohibitive, to keep the quality good, to keep the brokerage strong, and to try and evaluate it so that we can continue to monitor and improve it. Who is going to pay and how do we make it a model? Where we are heading is to try and take the admin out by using technological solutions. We are almost there with the technology, but we will need the help of the profession because we need to get a critical mass of volunteers in order to invite the schools to take part. We want to be able to promote what we are doing with bodies like CILEx, for example, because that’s the perfect group, and Legal Aid lawyers, and also with individual lawyers who show some interest in it.

The advantages of Citizenship education and the need to maintain quality standards

We can say that schools need to prioritise Citizenship more. We can recommend this from the top down, but from a teacher’s point of view there is only a limited amount of time in a school day. The teacher will say “You’re just throwing another thing at me that I have to try and fit in.” That’s not a very teacher- friendly way of doing it. What we know anecdotally – and there is probably not enough evidence of it – is that good quality citizenship education can actually do a huge amount of other things for the curriculum than what is just within its four walls.   So we are trying to join the dots and to say: “Well, if you do good Citizenship then your attainment levels are going to be better across the school, your engagement levels are going to be better, your students are going to have better skills to support them with general learning because they are going to develop critical thinking skills and communication skills and so on. They are going to be more employable and they are going to more become responsible citizens generally within the school and outside the school.”

Trying to draw those connections together, the other point that is linked to this was that when Citizenship became statutory in 2002 there was then a huge influx of other resource providers who said “Oh, this new subject, let’s make some resources for it because schools will love it, schools will buy it up, and it will be great.” As a result the quality of citizenship education went downhill.   Exactly the same thing happened when personal finance education became a statutory part of the Citizenship curriculum. There was a huge influx of resources and Pfeg[47] noticed the same reduction in quality. So, if a greater priority is given to citizenship education this also needs to be balanced with the importance of maintaining quality. We have developed a quality mark for third party PLE resources, because there are organisations like Save the Children or Amnesty that might be delivering or producing resources on a specific area of PLE. We can provide this kind of hub, and have this one place where all those resources come to.   So, a teacher will know that if I need to find that information, I can go there, I know it’s trusted. It’s not all developed by us, it’s developed by lots of other people, but it’s to a certain standard, it’s accurate and engaging and so on.

Our four main needs

Our four main needs are:

  • Support for intermediary organisations;
  • Support for the teaching profession in relation to Citizenship training, including PLE;
  • Leadership within government.
  • The involvement of the legal profession and how much more of an impact they can have on the quality of delivery.

We need support for intermediary organisations like ourselves and the National Justice Museum and so on, because there isn’t support for them in the model we have at the moment. It all comes from schools, and it’s too much of a burden on schools to be able to afford these things. The only specific funder for PLE at the moment is the Legal Education Foundation.

The incentives for lawyers to participate in work in schools

Law firms are influenced by the objectives of corporate social responsibility. When they go to pitch for clients they are asked “What are you doing?” The way that corporate social responsibility is going is that your strategy should link to your business goals, and so if at the heart of your business is the rule of law and justice, then supporting PLE links very clearly to that.

I think there are benefits to your employees because you’re providing them with good communication skills. You’re encouraging your solicitors to explain things in straightforward terms to a young person in a way that can be engaging, and to deal with quite challenging questions at times as well. This will help them in whatever cases they are dealing with, so there’s a developmental point in that. I think there is also a local community marketing potential from the smaller firm’s perspective. You know that if you go into your local school and it puts something in the newsletter which comes home to the parents saying that X from this firm went into my school today, then there’s a marketing value.


[1] See Julian Hunt’s evidence in the footnote in Appendix 2 at pp. 97-98.

[2] The Low Commission. (2014) Tackling the advice deficit, p. viii. Accessed September 2017:

[3] The Low Commission. (2015) Getting it right in social welfare law, p. iii. Accessed September 2017:

[4] PLEAS Task Force. (2007) Developing capable citizens: the role of public legal education. Accessed September 2017:

[5] This estimate was quoted by the then Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, in his foreword to Professor Pascoe Pleasence at al. (2016) Causes of Action: Civil Law and Social Justice, Second Edition, LSRC Research Paper No 14. Accessed September 2017:

[6] Law for Life. (2015) Legal needs, legal capability and the role of public legal education. Accessed September 2017:

[7] See summary in Professor Pascoe Pleasence et al. (2015) How People Understand and Interact with the Law. Accessed September 2017:

[8] Law for Life. (2015) Legal needs, legal capability and the role of public legal education, p. 3. Accessed September 2017:

[9] Ibid.

[10] Department for Education. National Curriculum in England: citizenship programmes of study for key stages 3 and 4. Accessed September 2017:

[11] See the written statement of Citizenship Foundation in appendix 4 at p. 92.

[12] Ibid.

[13] PLEAS Task Force. (2007) Developing capable citizens: the role of public legal education. Accessed September 2017:

[14] This estimate was quoted by the then Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, in his Foreword to LSRC Research Paper No 14, Pascoe Pleasence at al (2006) Causes of Action: Civil Law and Social Justice, Second Edition. Accessed September 2017:

[15] A new AdviceNow service went live in June 2015. In 2015-6 the service was accessed by 931,000 users.

[16] Accessed September 2017

[17] PLEAS Task Force. (2007) Developing capable citizens: the role of public legal education. Accessed September 2017:

[18] Law for Life. Collard, S., Deeming, C., Wintersteiger, L., Jones, M., Seargeant, J. (2010) Public legal education evaluation framework, Law for Life. Accessed September 2017:

[19] Law for Life. Wintersteiger, L. (2015) Legal Need, Legal Capability and the Role of Public Legal Education. Accessed September 2017:

[20] For example, the primary source of funding for the AdviceNow services (formerly run by the Advice Services Alliance) disappeared when the Legal Services Commission was abolished.

[21] For an analysis of immigration and nationality information deficits that predated the ultimate closure of the service see AdviceNow, (2009) The poor relation: immigration and nationality information deficit,. Accessed September 2017:

[22] Pleasence et al, Paths to Justice: A past, present and future road map Nuffield Foundation, 2013. (Accessed September 2017).

[23] In England and Wales, findings from the 2010 Civil and Social Justice Survey indicated that respondents obtained help from a lawyer for only one problem in every fifteen, and only one person in twenty had any involvement with a tribunal or a court. The responses, however, ranged from between 28% (lawyer use) and 15% (court/tribunal involvement) across family problems to 1% (lawyer use and court/tribunal involvement) in the case of consumer problems, and fewer than 1% (lawyer use) in the case of problems concerning welfare benefits (ibid, 2013).

[24] The most recent survey suggests that about 11% of legal issues are accurately characterised. See Pleasence,P., Balmer, N., Denvir, C. How people understand and interact with the law. The Legal Education Foundation, 2015. (September 2017).

[25] Genn, H., 1999. Paths to Justice: What People Do and Think about Going to Law. Oxford: Hart Publishing.

[26] Making the law work for everyone. UNDP, 2008. (Accessed September 2017).

[27]A more recent success is marked by the inclusion of access to justice in the UN Sustainable Development Goals. (Accessed September 2017).

[28] Sometimes described as ”juridification” in this context.

[29] Pleasence, P et al (2015) pp 25, 66. See Fn 21 above.

[30] Delivering Justice in an age of austerity, JUSTICE (2015). (Accessed September 2017).

[31] Although there have been about 700 registrations under the Alternative Business Structure regime, in practice innovation has been limited. Legal Services Market Study, Competition and Markets Authority, 2016. (Accessed September 2017).

[32] Consultation response: UK financial capability strategy, Money Advice Service, 2015; Appendix A pp. 78. (Accessed September 2017). The evolution of financial capability in the UK. In his introduction the Chairman of the Money Advice Service wrote: “It’s worrying that levels of financial capability are still so low across the country. One in six people can’t read the balance on a bank statement. Approximately 40% of the working age population are unlikely to have adequate income in retirement. Over 50% of people say that they are ‘making do’. And more than 80% of over-indebted people do not seek free advice that could help them escape from the problems they face.”

[33] Civil Courts Structure Review: Final Report (Accessed September 2017).

[34] Consultation response to the Civil Courts Structure Review, Law for Life 2016. (accessed September 2017).

[35] Teaching has largely been focused on those groups who both experience multiple legal problems, and often have the lowest levels of legal knowledge and skills to contend with them. They include refugees and migrants, disabled groups, women’s groups, young people and low-income workers. Most often, Law for Life’s work has taken place though networks of community organisations, as they tend to have the best knowledge of the issues facing local communities, coupled with a relationship of trust and familiarity that makes informal education possible. For evaluations of the work see: Mackie, L., Law for Life: Legal Capability for Everyday Life, January 2013. Evaluation report, The Gilfillan Partnership Research and Consultancy Services; (Accessed September 2017). Evaluation of PLE for Advice Champions in the Community Links Early Action Advice Project: Final Evaluation Report, Law for Life, October 2015. (Accessed September 2017).

[36] Examples of teaching resources can be found at (Accessed September 2017).

[37] Law for Life and Birkbeck College School of Law, Public Legal Education Clinical Module (15 credits) (Accessed September 2017).

[38] Public Legal Education and Information.

[39] Employment Support Allowance.

[40] Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service.

[41] Why the haves have come out ahead. Marc Galanter, Law and Society, Fall 1974. (Accessed September 2017).

[42] Now Lord Phillips of Sudbury, former senior partner of Bates Wells and Braithwaite, but at that time a young solicitor practising in Suffolk.

[43] Social, Moral, Spiritual, Cultural.

[44] (Accessed September 2017).

[45] Personal, Social and Health Education.

[46] “Mergers and acquisitions in the day job and then housing law in schools, it’s crazy”.

[47] The Personal Finance Education Group is the equivalent of the Citizenship Foundation in that area.

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