A qualitative study of how consumers with mental health problems and dementia experience legal services.

Why is this research important?

We have a strategic objective to reduce the existing high levels of unmet legal need. Ensuring the needs of vulnerable consumers are understood and addressed is key to delivering our vision for legal services that everyone can access and trust. This research opens a window on the experiences of two specific groups of vulnerable consumers.

Why did we undertake this research?

Large and increasing numbers of people have mental health problems or dementia. It is estimated that one in four people is likely to experience a mental health problem during their lifetime. There are around 850,000 people in the UK with dementia, which is expected to reach 1 million by 2025. We also focused on vulnerabilities linked to mental health problems and dementia as these were areas identified during the scoping phase of our project as having less of an existing evidence base.

What new information did this research provide?

We commissioned Research Works to conduct 60 in-depth interviews across England and Wales with individuals with either mental health problems or dementia (or their carers). All the participants had used, or tried but failed to use, legal services in the preceding 18 months.
The interviews set out to explore: what features of the market are particularly relevant to these client groups; what circumstances contribute to these individuals being vulnerable when purchasing legal services; the extent to which the legal needs of those in the study are being met; and what approaches by practitioners could improve accessibility, service experience and outcomes.

The research identified how small steps by practitioners can make a big difference for people with dementia or mental health problems. Across both groups, a key theme is creating safe space in which people feel comfortable to volunteer information or be sensitively asked about their needs.

The research summary sets out the findings of the Research Works research in more detail.

All of the relevant outputs of this research can be found here:

Research report on how people with dementia experience legal services
Appendices to the report on dementia and legal services
Animation to accompany the report on dementia and legal services
Consumer tip sheet to support people with dementia

Research report on how people with mental health problems experience legal services
Appendices to the report on mental health problems and legal services
Animation to accompany the report on mental health problems and legal services
Consumer tip sheet to support people with mental health problems

One-page summary of both research reports
Research note on consumer vulnerability

How are we going to use this research?

We will continue to explore opportunities to raise awareness of the research and to help consumers and practitioners benefit from it.

The research will help to inform our assessment of performance by the regulators and also our work over the next strategy period.

This work may also help to inform our position on the regulation of special bodies (with rights under section 23 of the Legal Services Act 2007), which are likely to be among suppliers of services to vulnerable consumers.