Building legal literacy in organisations that support people experiencing multiple disadvantage

McCormack, F., Machin, R. ORCID: 0000-0003-2296-2123, Riley, V., Spyropoulos, K., Dunn, K. and Gidlow, C.J., 2023. Building legal literacy in organisations that support people experiencing multiple disadvantage. Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law. ISSN 0964-9069

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We present a case study of specialist welfare advice and advocacy for people experiencing multiple disadvantage (i.e., a combination of homelessness, contact with the criminal justice system, substance misuse, mental ill health). Drawing primarily on qualitative interviews with staff and stakeholders, we demonstrate the need for, and success of, specialist benefits advice for this customer group. It led to substantial financial gains, providing a greater level of security and stability, which also increased the housing options available to customers. We highlight an ongoing need for greater recognition across organisations that work with customers experiencing multiple disadvantage, and that benefits (and backdated payments) are a legal entitlement of customers. Implications for policy and practice are discussed for those developing similar models with pre-existing partner organisations, including the importance of: developing confidence and a different ‘law informed’ mindset in front-line staff; advisors building relationships with staff to achieve this; preparatory work with partner organisations to develop a shared understanding of what is involved and expected of specialist advisors and partner organisations. Ultimately, a culture of legal literacy must be cultivated at the individual level (front-line staff) and the organisational level (partner host). This is particularly pertinent to progress for this customer group given the current UK cost of living crisis. Stakeholders had concerns about the future of such initiatives in the context of further funding cuts; there is a risk that legal literacy development programmes become marginalised at a time when they are most needed.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law
Creators: McCormack, F., Machin, R., Riley, V., Spyropoulos, K., Dunn, K. and Gidlow, C.J.
Publisher: Informa UK Limited
Date: 26 February 2023
ISSN: 0964-9069
Rights: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law on 26th February 2023, available at:
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Laura Ward
Date Added: 02 Mar 2023 09:00
Last Modified: 02 Mar 2023 09:00

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