We began work in 2010 to improve our understanding of the needs of consumers and will be building on this work by developing our consumer affairs function and publishing our strategy which will take account of the needs of all consumers, including those who may face barriers to accessing legal services.
Our consumer affairs work will feed into different areas of the SRA to make sure that consumer views and experiences are well-represented and positioned across our work. We are moving on from making assumptions on behalf of consumers to empowering consumers to make informed choices on the basis of improved knowledge, understanding and information. Our work will focus on education, engagement and empowerment.
In relation to consumer education, we want to support members of the public in being aware of issues they may face in using legal services, how best to manage these, and how to understand the services they want to access and know more about their rights.
Our consumer engagement work will help us improve our supervision and enforcement activities, giving us a better understanding of the risks and concerns consumers have in using legal services. We will be proactive and inclusive in helping consumers put their point of view across to us and make it easier for consumers to tell us what they think about our work, and more widely about legal services. We have already been working closely with our consumer-based Disability Advisory Group and will ensure that we are inclusive and take particular account of the needs of vulnerable consumers.
If our education and engagement are both effective, consumers will be informed and empowered to access legal services and understand what to expect.
Some of the initial projects will include the creation of a network for members of the public to have their say about issues facing them in using legal services, setting up new links with organisations in the not-for-profit and charity sectors, as a means of identifying emerging issues, and working more closely with other organisations within the legal services sector, including the Legal Ombudsman, the Legal Services Board (LSB) Consumer Panel and other approved regulators, to boost the strength of signposting and support services for consumers using legal services.