LEGAL AID: SHAPING THE SHORELINE WAVE BY WAVE
Keywords:legal aid, scope, eligibility, delivery, quality assurance
A study of the global development of legal aid reveals that it developed in five waves and that legal aid schemes are combinations of three variables, namely scope (what is covered), eligibility (matters that qualify for legal aid and financial conditions) and delivery (who provide the services and at what cost). The article argues that there is a sixth wave, namely quality assurance and that the third variable has been extended to include reference to quality. Quality assurance normally has its origin in self-regulation or in requirements set by implementing bodies of the state. It is difficult to determine what constitutes “quality” and it is even more difficult to reach consensus on its meaning. An investigation into quality assurance in two jurisdictions shows that there is not a “one size fits all” template available. The nature and extent of the services rendered and the manner in which quality assurance is applied, depends on the delivery variable (whether it is salaried, judicare or mixed). The philosophy behind it is also important. If it is mere “window dressing” or designed to give effect to a Constitutional or some other legislative requirement, the system will not achieve credibility in the eyes of the beneficiaries thereof. Quality control that is directed towards providing customer satisfaction, and where the user of the service is seen as the ultimate recipient and arbiter of a benefit that is paid for by the state, has a much better prospect of being judged effective and credible. External quality assessment goes a long way towards promoting quality improvement and credibility.
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