Geography of advice seeking

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    n acBlac489ge-l juorwn of services. In general, proximity of advice services had a relatively modestandof d

    Crown Copyright 2008 Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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    This paper explores the impact that distance between an indi-vidual and their closest advice provider has upon the utilisationof advice services. Using both actual and perceived distance mea-sures, we rst seek to understand whether having an adviser lo-cated nearby increases awareness of available services and howthis in turn may impact upon the use of services. We then investi-

    information about the impact of poor physical accessibility uponthose people that require the use of such services. They nonethe-less highlight a trend towards legal advisers being concentratedin urbanised commercial centres and less so in deprived residentialand suburban and rural areas (Abel, 1988; Foster, 1973).

    The AJRBP, which was completed in 1988, remains the most in-depth study of the distribution of solicitors and its impact on ser-vice accessibility in the UK. Building upon assumptions surround-ing the need for advice services in rural areas outlined by The RoyalCommission on Legal Services (1979), the study found that formany people living in isolated rural communities, difculties in

    * Corresponding author. Present address: Legal Services Research Centre, 4 AbbeyOrchard Street, London SW1P 2BS, UK.

    Geoforum 39 (2008) 20842096

    Contents lists availab


    lseE-mail address: (A. Patel).context of the provision of public legal services. This is recognisedin the Legal Services Commissions (an executive non-departmentalpublic body responsible for the administration of legal aid fundingin England and Wales) Strategy for the Community Legal Service(Legal Services Commission 2005, p. 24), in which the need to tailor,advice services in accordancewith geographical factors is empha-sised. Indeed, with the likely contraction of the number of legal aidorganisations over the coming years (Mayson 2007; Carter, 2006),geographical aspects of advice provision are of increasing relevance.

    the Exeter Access to Justice in Rural Britain Project (AJRBP), noted,Lawyers and legal services as a whole have received scant atten-tion in the extensive geographical literature on service provisionwhich has for the most part concentrated on public sector servicessuch as health and education (Economides et al., 1986, p. 162).The studies that do exist, while important, are usually limited bytheir supplier orientated nature, concentrating on analysis of thelocations and perceptions of advice providers, providing little1. Introduction

    It is assumed that access to civil jupartially, dependent upon physical psell 1990; Sandbach 2004). Unfortunsearch on the effect that distance haout advice for a civil justice problemtested. Regardless of the shortfallassumption, the possibility that distaaccessing legal services is an impor0016-7185/$ - see front matter Crown Copyright 2doi:10.1016/j.geoforum.2008.07.004dvice services is, at leastty to an adviser (Black-there has been little re-ow an individual seeksng the assumption un-dence to support thisay act as an obstacle tonsideration within the

    gate the impact of increasing distance, on both service use andmode of access.

    2. Access to advice services

    In spite of the important role played by the civil advice sectorwithin society there has been surprisingly little research on geo-graphical aspects of legal advice seeking and service location. Thisapplies to research both in the legal and geographical elds. One ofthe rst investigations into the distribution of solicitors in the UK,ProximityAwareness

    without use of motorised transport. The suitability of different modes of advice provision for particulardemographic groups are discussed, as well as implications for service delivery.Geography of advice seeking

    A. Patel a,*, N.J. Balmer a,b, P. Pleasence a,b

    a Legal Services Research Centre, Legal Services Commission, 4 Abbey Orchard Street, Lonb Faculty of Laws, University College London, UK

    a r t i c l e i n f o

    Article history:Received 29 May 2007Received in revised form 22 May 2008

    Keywords:Civil and social justice problemsLegal servicesAdvice servicesAdvice seeking strategy

    a b s t r a c t

    Despite limited research ogeographic proximity [e.g.spective. Geoforum 21 (4),Social Justice Survey, a larresponse to civil and sociaJustice, second ed. TSO, Non awareness and utilisatioimpact on both awarenessthere was some evidence


    journal homepage: www.e008 Published by Elsevier Ltd. All radvice seeking. However, proximity did impact upon mode of contact andifference in strategy (particularly more inaction) for isolated individuals, SW1P 2BS, UK

    cess to advice services, it has long been assumed that access is related toksell, M., 1990. Social Justice and access to legal services: a geographic per-502]. The current study uses data from the English and Welsh Civil andscale nationally representative survey of respondents experience of andstice problems [Pleasence, P., 2006. Causes of Action: Civil Law and Socialich], to examine the impact of proximity to mainstream advice services

    le at ScienceDirect


    vier .com/locate /geoforumights reserved.

  • accessing advice services stemmed from the intrinsic remotenessof the countryside, which dictates that people have to expendmoretime, money and energy (Blacksell et al., 1991, p. 169) than thoseliving in more urban areas.

    The second dichotomous dimension is between spatial versus

    A. Patel et al. / Geoforum 3However, the signicant changes that have taken place in thelegal and general advice sector since the completion of the AJRBPlimit the extent to which it is possible to apply its ndings to thepresent day. Changes in the scope and mechanisms of legal aidand the utilisation of communication technologies to deliver ser-vices mean that advice options have signicantly altered sincethe AJRBP study.

    Societal changes since the completion of the AJRBP have alsoredened traditional barriers to obtaining advice, for example theconsiderable increase in personal car ownership1 is likely to havealtered peoples ability to access advice services. In their study look-ing into the experience of civil justice problems in New Zealand,Maxwell et al. (1999) revealed that having access to personal trans-port increased the rate at which survey respondents were able tosuccessfully obtain advice. Additionally, the enormous growth inthe use of digital and mobile technology (Ofcom, 2006) has also chal-lenged traditional notions of access, leading some, such as Graham(1998), to reassess conceptualisations of accessibility. He states:

    Propinquity in material space has no necessary correlationwith relational meaning. . .Complex place and transport-based relational meaning. . .are constantly being recombinedwith local and non-local relational connections, accessed viatechnological networks. (p. 181)

    The growth in personal use of mobile and digital communicationtechnologies has eroded some barriers individuals may have previ-ously faced. New methods being employed to deliver services byadvice sector organisations, such as advice delivered over the tele-phone and via internet/e-mail, are also changing the manner inwhich individuals can engage with the advice sector. It has beenspeculated that the virtual mobility created by the use of Informa-tion and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can offset some of thedifculties presented by poor availability of transport and may evenpromote social inclusion by enabling access to key services (Kenyonet al., 2002).

    Access is thus a multifaceted concept that goes beyond simplylooking at spatial measures (see Field and Briggs 2001; Weberand Kwan, 2003a). Yet, as is often noted by geographers, accessusually does include a spatial element, something socio-legal re-search has tended to ignore. Traditionally, such research has re-garded access and accessibility to the legal system, in relation toeconomic, cultural and psychological barriers (Economides et al.,1986, p. 173).

    While there is a shortfall in literature on spatial accessibility tothe advice sector, it has been widely explored within health careresearch. In light of the growing recognition of the relationship be-tween the experience of civil and social justice problems and ill-health (Balmer et al., 2005; British Medical Association, 2003;Drentea, 2000; Drentea and Lavrakas, 2000; Nettleton and Bur-rows, 1998; Pleasence et al., 2004a; Reading and Reynolds, 2001),and also the role played by medical services, in particular GeneralPractitioners ofces, in delivering civil justice advice (Balmer et al.,2005; Lord Chancellors Department, 2003; Working Party of theRoyal College of General Practitioners, 1972; Social Exclusion Unit,2004), the application of health care doctrines to inform debate

    1 Comparing gures between the 1991 and 2001 census shows an increase in carownership of 5% during that period. This increase is relevant when coupled withndings from the National Statistics Omnibus Survey (January and March 2000

    2001) which suggested that individuals living in a household without access to a carwere almost twice as likely to nd difculty in accessing key services compared tothose that did have access (Ruston, 2002).aspatial access. Spatial access is, specically conditioned by a spa-tial/distance variable (as a barrier or facilitator) (Khan 1992, p.276). Clearly, the use of travel impedance or cumulative opportu-nity measures cannot fully explain variations in access. As withmedical problems, individuals can respond in a number of differ-ent ways when faced with a civil justice problem; the decision toseek advice and the choice of advice provider is far from obvious(Genn, 1999; Pleasence, 2006) and not explained by physicalproximity alone. Variations are as much determined by socio-cul-tural and demographic constraints as physical distance or locationper se (Deas et al., 2003; Weber and Kwan, 2003b; Rose, 1993,1997; Schuurman and Pratt, 2002; Yapa, 1998). Relying exclu-sively on spatial accessibility measures fails to, capture the com-plexities arising from the effect of personal idiosyncrasies andindividual perception of the geographical and temporal availabil-ity (Weber and Kwan 2003b, p. 345). Aspatial (or social) access,which stresses the relevance of non-geographic barriers or facili-tators, essentially addresses these personal idiosyncrasies andindividual perceptions (Birkin et al., 1996;, Field and Briggs,2001; Guagliardo, 2004; Joseph and Phillips, 1984; Khan, 1992;Luo and Wang, 2003).surrounding access to advice services would seem entirelyappropriate.

    Understanding service accessibility in both the health and theadvice sector is highly important. As with problems of ill-health,failing to take appropriate action to deal with a civil justice prob-lem may well exacerbate it. Early intervention could possibly avertsimple problems spiralling into far more complicated ones later on(Department for Constitutional Affairs, 2006; Genn, 1999; Gennand Paterson, 2001; Pleasence, 2006), therefore making it crucialthat appropriate advice services can be easily accessed. Field andBriggs (2001, p. 295) note that accessibility and utilisation of pri-mary health care (though equally applicable to advice services),should not be more arduous than the underlying need for the ad-vice. They argue that:

    . . .the action of seeking health care must not be more trou-blesome and disturbing than the illness itself, and the barri-ers to effective accessibility such as distance, inconvenience,and cost may act as a deterrent and reduce utilization eventhough a psychological readiness to use a healthcare serviceexists.

    2.1. Denitions of access

    Before any discussion about the effect of physical accessibilitycan begin, it is helpful to conceptualise access by looking towardsestablished health sector doctrines. A widely accepted conceptuali-sation put forward by Khan (1992), describes access as being con-structed of two dichotomous dimensions. The rst dichotomy isbetween potential versus realised (also referred to as revealed oractualised) access. Potential accessibility suggests the probable en-try into the healthcare system, however, it does not necessarily en-sure such services are utilised (Khan 1992). Realised access isachieved when barriers to entry into the healthcare system areovercome and services are actually utilised (Guagliardo, 2004; Jo-seph and Phillips, 1984; Luo and Wang, 2003). Though it is ac-cepted that spatial accessibility can be measured in terms ofdistance or time, recent research has also demonstrated the impactupon service utilisation based upon perceived distance (whetherconsidered in terms of physical distance or time) (Fone et al.,2006).

    9 (2008) 20842096 2085Combining the two dichotomies provides a useful typology ofaccess (see Table 1). Khans dichotomy demonstrates the com-plex of factors that inuence geographic access and shows that

  • health or disability, as well as an indication of severity.If a respondent had experienced at least one problem, they pro-

    gressed to a short follow-up interview, which addressed further as-pects of a single problem drawn from those identied through thescreening interview (including advice, objectives, costs and out-comes). No main interviews were conducted in respect of con-sumer problems.

    The mean interview duration was half an hour. Twenty-two percent of respondents completed both a screen interview and a maininterview. A full technical report of the survey has been publishedelsewhere (Phelps et al., 2005).

    Survey ndings, specically those relating to respondents per-ception of local advice points,2 were used to compare respondentssituational knowledge of local advice provision against mapped ad-viser locations.

    3.2. Mapping

    Respondents and advice providers postcodes were assignednational grid references against the Royal Mails Postcode addressle. This enabled the analysis of a respondents distance from their

    Table 2Discrete problem types reported in the survey, and percentage/number of respon-

    m 39 (2008) 20842096as only one part of this complex, the effect of physical distancemay vary. Though it would be extremely interesting to get a fullinsight on issues surrounding geographic access, this currentstudy is limited for several methodological reasons (noted be-low), to investigate geographic and spatial issues of access purelyin terms of proximity (dened by physical Euclidean distanceand location) to address differences between potential and rea-lised spatial access to advice services. It will investigate to whatextent advice service utilisation is reliant on awareness of, orpropinquity to local advice provision and in doing so, identifywhether access to advice services is equal between different pop-ulation groups.

    3. Methodology

    3.1. The English and Welsh Civil and Social Justice Survey

    Data in the present study come from the 2004 English...