A new framework, produced by the Personal Finance Research Centre (PFRC) at the University of Bristol and Law for Life, aims to improve public legal education so that more people are aware of their legal rights when faced with law-related issues in everyday life, such as consumer complaints, discrimination at work or debt problems.
The idea of using public legal education (PLE) to help people recognise and deal effectively with these types of issues is a relatively new field in the UK, but one that is gaining ground in the face of radical changes to legal aid.†
To move policy and practice forward in this important area, the PFRC and Law for Life: The Foundation for Public Legal Education have produced a PLE Evaluation Framework aimed at organisations that deliver PLE. Funded by the Ministry of Justice, the Framework promotes robust evaluations of PLE, so that over time we can develop a better understanding of what works and why.†† It offers practitioners and evaluators a set of evaluation goals, measures and research methods to assess the impact of PLE, and also considers the particular challenges of evaluating PLE projects and programmes.† For example, the subjects covered by PLE can be very varied and the activities used to deliver PLE diverse, from a leaflet, to a theatre production, or a mentoring scheme.†† The Framework is accompanied by practical guidance on evaluating PLE.†
The framework also sets out, for the first time, a comprehensive vision of what it means to be legally capable in today’s world.† This builds on seminal work carried out by the PFRC for the Financial Services Authority to conceptualise and measure financial capability in the UK population.† Informed by the research evidence and input from international PLE experts, the four domains of legal capability have been identified as:
∑ Recognising and framing the legal dimensions of issues and situations
∑ Finding out more about the legal dimensions of issues and situations
∑ Dealing with law-related issues and situations
∑ Engaging and influencing the world in which we live, by understanding the relationships between the law in our everyday lives and wider social issues and democratic processes.