Routes to Rights is a research programme, led by Colette Hawkins and hosted by South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which has investigated the breadth and impact of legal needs in life-limiting illness and routes to support.
Currently NIHR funded, the research has also received funding from The Legal Education Foundation and NIHR Applied Research Collaborative North East and North Cumbria.
Key findings from the research to date include:
- Legal needs relate to two main areas:
- Delivery of legally compliant health and social care (for example, implementing the Mental Capacity Act robustly)
- Matters of daily life for which the law defines rights, entitlements and protections (for example, rights around benefits, employment and safe housing). These are called social welfare legal needs.
- Legal needs are prevalent in chronic or life-limiting illness and cause significant practical and emotional difficulty.
- People who are socially disadvantaged in some way (for example, people experiencing homelessness) are disproportionately affected by legal needs and often have greatest difficulty accessing support
- Routes to advice and support are difficult to find and navigate
- Healthcare professionals are often the first contact for social welfare legal needs in the context of ill-health, but often overlook them
Responding to legal needs requires two things:
- Awareness: A health and social care workforce aware of the relevance and importance of legal needs to chronic or life-limiting illness and their part to play in supporting people’s rights
- Connections: Social welfare legal needs often require access to advice and specialist support. This requires a multi-agency system response, using the services and resources already available more effectively.
The research has built a large national and regional multi-agency community. Using Human Learning Systems (www.humanlearningsystems) we are building a system response built on a philosophy of pooling expertise, learning together, challenging inequality and building connections.
Hawkins C, Close H, Kirby M, Hesselgreaves H, Rothwell C, Beardon S, Genn H. 2019. Legal needs towards end of life: definition, experience and implications for policy and practice. BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care 2019;9:A6-A7. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjspcare-2019-HUKNC.17
Hawkins C, Kirby M, Genn H, Close H. 2020. Legal needs of adults with life-limiting illness: what are they and how are they managed? A qualitative multiagency stakeholder exercise | Integrated Healthcare Journal (bmj.com)
Close H, Sidhu K, Genn H, Ling J, Hawkins C. 2021. Qualitative investigation of patient and carer experiences of everyday legal needs towards end of life | BMC Palliative Care | Full Text (biomedcentral.com)
Hawkins C, Rothwell C, Close H, Emmett C, Hesselgreaves H. 2021 Journal of Law and Medicine 2021;28:1082-1091
This study or project is funded by the NIHR [End of Life Partnership (NIHR 135276) HS&DR]. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.