Time Well Spent
A report by the Council on Social Action about the importance of the one-to-one relationship between advice workers and their clients. Launched November 2009. Download the report below.
- Clients value a good relationship with their advisor. Taking the time to listen and explain, to show empathy and sympathy and to show respect are seen as essential parts of a quality service;
- The importance of the relationship between advisor and client goes further than just an understandable desire to be treated well - the relationship is instrumental to the quality of the work advisors do with their clients
And these factors are placing pressure on the ability of advisers to establish good 1:1 relationships with clients:
- The impact of reforms to legal advice services, notably the introduction of fixed fees for advice work.
- The impact of the high level of demand for advice services that is caused by failures in the system of benefits and public services administration.
- The impact of the greater levels of commissioning for services;
- The impact of the recession and the resulting increasing demand for services.
The report makes the following recommendations:
- The advice sector should review current training programmes to ensure that advice workers are developing skills in building one-to-one relationships with their clients. Group 8 Education will be running a one-day workshop for advice workers to pilot some new approaches to achieving this.
- The Ministry of Justice and the Legal Services Commission needs to work with the advice sector to agree a shared definition of (i) the purpose of legal aid, (ii) the outcomes legal aid is seeking to achieve and (iii) the level of quality of advice provision that therefore needs to be in place.
- The Ministry of Justice and the Legal Services Commission should expand successful approaches, such as those adopted in the Solihull Early Advice Pilot.
- Following the Study of Legal Advice at the Local Level, the Ministry of Justice is carrying out further work to examine the impact of fixed fees on issues such as closing cases early and “cherry picking.” This work needs to pay particular attention to the impact of fixed fees on the quality of relationships.
- The Ministry of Justice and the Legal Services Commission should closely examine the findings of Refugee and Migrant Justice’s research on what is quality immigration advice.
- The Ministry of Justice and the Legal Services Commission should closely examine the findings of AdviceUK and Vanguard Consulting’s work on a systems thinking approach to local advice services and support the development of local pilots.
- The research begun here into the role of the relationship between advisor and client in generating a good outcome should be expanded to explore how this relates to different types of clients and different categories of advice. One option may be to use the Crime and Social Justice Survey carried out by the Legal Services Research Centre.
- Further research should be carried out into the savings to the public purse generated by advice work.
It also notes the implications for public services:
- Spending time building productive relationships with people using services is time well spent. These relationships are instrumental to achieving quality outcomes and value for money. Measures such as fixed fees, inappropriate targets and burdensome administration all get in the way of this effort. By focusing on driving down costs, services end up struggling to provide value.
- It is important to invest in this relationship at the earliest opportunity.
- Failure demand creates a significant additional burden on services. Tackling the causes of these failures frees up time and energy to focus on what really needs doing.
- The planning, funding and administration of public services needs to focus on the quality of the human relationship at the point of delivery. This is not about access to services, it is about the deeper quality of relationships that have the power to transform.
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