Welfare Rights Review

Independent research evaluates Welfare Rights' services and outcomes for clients

National Welfare Rights Network (NWRN) commissioned independent research into the services provided by our members. This involved a qualitative survey of 30 closed cases and a quantitative survey of 200 clients who received advice in a two week period.

Qualitative interviews with 30 clients revealed that, following NWRN intervention:

  • 13 were no longer considering suicide
  • 6  were now able to provide for their children
  • 6  had reduced family tension
  • 6  either kept their home or were no longer homeless
  • 6  had returned to work or study
  • 3 were now eating properly
  • 3 became volunteers
  • 2 had reconnected with supports

(multiple outcomes for some clients mean that numbers exceed 30).

NWRN commissioned Susan Bell Research to conduct the research.  Susan Bell Research is a respected independent research company which is regularly commissioned by the Commonwealth Government to conduct research into consumer experiences in the financial services sector.

We want to ensure that our services are effectively and efficiently targeted. Our aim was to better understand and assess:

  • our client’s needs, with a specific focus on service delivery
  • the flow on effects of our work and
  • the gap in legal need that we work to fill

Key aspects of the report worth noting are:

1.      NWRN provides a quality frontline service and appears to be meeting the needs and expectations of most of its clients

On the whole, most clients (97%) were positive about their experience with their NWRN centre (good 14%, Very good 41% and Excellent 42%). The report found NWRN centres were easy to contact (91%); they called back when they said they would (84%); and they helped clients understand their problem (92%).  Our telephone service is critical. 82% of people rated the availability of telephone based advice services as ‘very important” to them.

2.      NWRN is meeting a gap that is not filled by other legal advice or complaints services

Many (60%) of ‘advice’ clients had approached other organisations in the past about the

problem they contacted the NWRN member centre about (Centrelink 30%, Legal Aid 18% other CLCs 9% and the Ombudsman 5%) and most (77%) of these had not found the help that they needed at these organisations.

Both the casework interviews and the advice survey indicate that other legal assistance providers including Legal Aid and Tribunals make referrals to NWRN as a specialist service in this field.[1]

3.      Outcomes from NWRN’s early intervention model result in significant flow on effects for clients and community.

The report examines the client experience before and after NWRN intervention. The report found that the pre-intervention quality of life was marked by financial instability, physical deterioration, social isolation and emotional struggle. The casework interviews revealed that following NWRN intervention:

  • 20%  were now able to provide for their children
  • 20%  had reduced family tension
  • 20%  either kept their home or were no longer homeless
  • 20%  had returned to work or study
  • 30% or more were no longer considering suicide
  • 10 % were eating properly
  • 10% became volunteers
  • 6% reconnected with supports

Interestingly the researchers found that this was only partly the result of winning the case. They found that the following NWRN conduct also contributed significantly to quality of life and lifestyle improvements: they listened to them, believed them, supported them through the process, recognized their emotional and physical stress and treated them with respect. These factors meant that some reported that they began to recover before they had won their case.

The report also found that the nature of recovery was progressive and could be summarized in 5 stages as follows:

  • Alive, though still in pain and socially isolated
  • Living a more stable life. Eating properly. Staying in their own home.
  • Being able to provide for their children/grandchildren again
  • Connecting to the wider family and community
  • Returned to work or study, or volunteering

There are a number of lessons for NWRN in the report, particularly around how people find our services and our interactions with other complementary services. For a full copy of the report, click here.




[1] P 8