Measuring the impact, quality and effectiveness of legal assistance services in a climate of reduced funding and increased government expectations: the Australian experience
This article describes collaborative research undertaken by Dr Liz Curran in Australia for Legal Aid ACT with the objective of defining and measuring the quality, outcomes and effectiveness of legal assistance services in a context where services are being asked to assess their impact on broader client outcomes. The challenge was to find an evaluation design which does not impose a further significant administrative or financial burden on legal service delivery. In Australia, consistent funding for research and evaluation has not been available. There are significant existing reporting obligations on Legal Assistance Services which are also poorly resourced. This situation contrasts with some overseas jurisdictions. It is largely as a result of this climate that a modest, replicable, low cost and sustainable approach has been developed by the authors for application in Australia. Other organisations are starting to utilise the study’s design. In this article the authors aim to share with other jurisdictions with similarly limited legal assistance budgets an evaluation that not only examines the services delivered but also captures client outcomes and service impacts.