Center for Elder Rights Advocacy
Legal Hotline Connec on March 2012 In This Issue... Senior Legal Helplines Annual Report 2011 Data Request...... Pg. 1 Legalhotlines.org - Where to Look for Hotline Resources....... Pg. 2 Law Student Volunteers and Senior Legal Hotlines................. Pg. 3 Na onal Elder Rights Training Project Upcoming Webinars... Pg. 3 Decdicated Senior Helpline Reaches More Seniors and Idenfies Trends in Legal Needs..................................................... Pg. 3 Upcoming Conferences........................................................... Pg. 5 Georgia Senior Legal Hotline Outcomes Study........................ Pg. 6
Senior Legal Helplines Annual Report for 2011 Data Request CERA is sending out the form for submi ng your data on clients/cases/ funding for your statewide senior legal hotline opera ons. We are hoping that all of you will submit whatever data you can, whether you area former, present, or hope to be in the future Model Approaches partner. We were thrilled to have twenty repor ng senior legal helplines last year and hope to have more par cipants this year. As you have heard before, Asst. Secretary Greenlee has stated “Data is Our Currency” and the legal hotline annual reports have been viewed as an outstanding example of a program providing proof of its produc vity. While several hotlines are in the process of developing methods of tracking the outcomes of their services – a highly desirable but intensive endeavor- the collecon of our usual clients/cases/resources data is a rela vely low cost but extremely enlightening study of the accomplishments of the legal helplines. By recording how many seniors have been served, we create a framework for the knowing how broadly the model has been applied. By gathering the demographic characteris cs of clients, whether for gender, age, income, or ethnicity, we can clearly see whether targe ng and outreach has been eﬀec ve and whether the dollars spent on services have go en to the target popula on. A most revealing sta s c over the years is the frequency of case type categories reported from year to year. Because most of the senior helplines accept cases for advice no ma er the civil category (unlike many other providers that limit services to specific priority issues) we are able to get an overview of problema c issues as they arise and change over the course of years. In the last report, 2010, collec on issues was the most common problem code at 16% of cases closed by the repor ng hotlines; in 2004 that code accounted for only 10% of cases; to an important extent, we can measure changes in the legal problems of seniors as reflected by the types of calls coming to the senior legal helplines and plan for addressing them systema cally. The data also provides benchmarks for u lizing hotline resources and staﬃng for helpline planners. How much money will it take to operate a hotline in a state with a par cular popula on size? How many people can the program serve with a certain amount of funding? How many full me staﬀ equivalents will it take to serve a par cular number of clients? How much will it cost
the handle a call and close a case? How much me should an advocate be expected to spend on a case, on average? How will the level of service – advice, limited ac on, extended services - impact the number of clients served and the number of cases a FTE can handle? Sta s cally, how many cases coming into the helpline will need to be placed for extended services? Answers to all these ques ons can be found in the data provided by the legal hotline managers. The burden of running the reports we request is more than oﬀset by the goldmine of resul ng data and the mul ple uses to which it can be put. With the data, planning for start up and future opera ons can be based on facts and experience and not just hope and luck. We wish we could show how the lives of the clients were changed by the service and we are making progress on that front as well. But even in its present form, the Annual Report is something the senior legal helplines can be proud to present to AoA and other funders as concrete tes mony to the value of legal helplines.
www.legalhotlines.org – Where to look first for legal hotline resources CERA is in the middle of a website makeover. We are moving the library of materials in the Hotline Toolkit to a new legal hotline resources page along with the directories we’ve compiled. This seems like the perfect me to highlight the unique materials we have archived there. From data to ethics, we have materials covering over 20 years of development of the legal hotline delivery model. The new website will divide materials into five main categories: •Opera onal Aspects of Running A hotline •Managing Staﬀ and Volunteers •Measuring Hotline Eﬀorts •Reaching the Right Clients, and •Reports and Surveys Opera onal Aspects Do you need informa on on se ng up or running a legal hotline? From a generic Legal Hotlines: A How to Manual to procedures and protocols from various hotline programs, you can find guidance for addressing all the opera onal aspects of running a hotline. A sampling of ar cles includes: PracƟce Tips for Small Hotlines, Online Intake for Legal Hotlines; CMS Drop Down QuesƟons. If you need assistance with communica ons systems and case management so ware choices, the website links you to the resources of the Legal Services Na onal Technology Assistance Project www.lsntap.org. A sec on on Managing Staﬀ and Volunteers includes various materials from hotline programs on how they recruit, nurture, and evaluate their paid and non paid staﬀ. Look here for some invaluable ar cles including The Legal Hotline AƩorneys’ Manual, ABA Standards on the OperaƟon of a Telephone Hotline, and third party and conflict policies from hotline programs. This sec on is a par cularly rich source of informa on on recrui ng and u lizing a orney and non-a orney volunteers. The Senior Legal Hotlines have been pioneers in measuring the produc vity and outcomes of their eﬀorts. This sec on includes ar cles about measuring outcomes as well as a library of reports on legal hotline outputs (cases closed, service codes) and cost of opera on. Also, the hotlines have conducted a number of client follow up reports to determine client outcomes and sa sfac on, which can be found in this sec on: Legal Hotline Outcomes Study 2006, 2003, 2000. Reaching the Right Clients involves outreach and targe ng to the clients in most social and eco
nomic need as well as those in ethnic and linguis c minority groups. This sec on contains the webinar presenta on: Targe ng and Serving Minority and Rural Communi es, as well as mulple ar cles on the topic and samples of brochure and flyers that senior hotlines have used to reach seniors. Finally, our Reports and Surveys sec on features the most complete compila on of legal needs surveys conducted by Model Approaches states, legal hotline produc vity reports, and outcome studies involving the legal hotline model. The Legal Hotline Self EvaluaƟon Measures Report is a unique tool whereby eleven senior and legal services hotlines collected data to provide benchmarks for legal hotline produc vity measures. And of course, if you need something you don’t see, please call or email CERA at 1-866-949 CERA (2372) or email@example.com and we’ll be more than happy to help you find what you are looking for.
Law Student Volunteers and Senior Legal Hotlines CERA surveyed the senior legal hotlines on the use of law students in their programs. Sincere thanks to the 20 programs that responded to the survey. Of those twenty programs, fi een indicated that they used law students in some capacity at the legal hotline. The most popular way of u lizing law students were: • 86% - Doing research for an a orney • 64% - Answering phones • 64% - Screening for eligibility • 64% - Giving advice with supervision • 50% - Doing brief services • 50% - Upda ng materials • 36% - Making follow up calls to track outcomes or oﬀer further help The responses were split regarding whether law students received law school credit for placement at the hotline with 45% of respondents repor ng that some law students do and some don’t receive credit. Only four of the hotlines indicated they had Americorps volunteers.
Na onal Elder Rights Training Projects Upcoming Webinars NCLC’s Na onal Elder Rights Training Project is part of the Na onal Legal Resource Center, a collabora on of organiza ons sponsored by the Administra on on Aging. Their upcoming webinars include: • March 14 - Helping Older Americans Cope with Medical Debt • March 21 - Tax Sales of Homes • April 11 - Abuse in Late Life: Responses, Resources, Collabora ons • April 18 - Lifeline and Other Strategies for Aﬀordable Telecommunica ons Services for Seniors All webinars are on Wednesdays at 2pm EST, unless otherwise noted. They are also open to the public and there is no charge. If you are interested in a ending a webinar, please email the NCLC Training Coordinator Jessica Hiemenz at Jhiemenz@nclc.org to receive a registra on invita on. This informa on, as well as recordings of past trainings, can be found on their website.
Decdicated Senior Helpline Reaches More Seniors and Iden fies Trends in Legal Needs By Jan Kruse & Ode e Williamson, Na onal Consumer Law Center Reprinted with permission from BiFocal Vol. 22, No. 3, Jan.-Feb. 2012 A key objec ve of the Massachuse s Senior Legal Assistance Project, funded through an Administra on on Aging (AOA) Model Approaches grant, is to increase access to legal services throughout the state for low-income older adults by doing more with less. Sound familiar? Yet by leveraging exper se and tweaking processes through a collabora ve approach, this ini a ve is succeeding. The three-year legal services capacity building grant, awarded in 2010 to the Legal Advocacy and Resource Center (LARC) of Boston, in partnership with the Massachuse s Execu ve Oﬃce of Elder Aﬀairs, was aimed at assis ng those in greatest economic and social need. As a first step, an advisory commi ee was created, comprised of stakeholders from across the state. The commi ee’s ini al task was to conduct a statewide needs assessment to gauge the highest legal priori es for adults aged 60 and older. Responses were collected from legal services providers and from consumer surveys of case managers, protec ve services workers, informa on and referral workers, and healthcare providers and caregivers. Based on the assessment, project partners launched a dedicated statewide elder legal services helpline in July 2011 to more eﬀec vely and eﬃciently meet low-income older adults’ needs, especially in rural and other underserved popula ons. Boston’s Legal Advocacy and Resource Center is a statewide legal aid assistance phone portal, which typically serves 13,000 people annually, of which 1,600 are seniors. Yet, many older adults would not or could not wait in a long call queue. With the launch of a dedicated helpline, now older adults are more able to reach a live legal advocate. And unlike with the general legal aid hotline, older adults can leave a message to have a call returned. “The dedicated senior helpline is working. We served 1,364 seniors in just the first six months,” says Rosa Previdi, execu ve director of LARC and co-director of this project. Project co-director Gordon Shaw, execu ve director of the Massachuse s Jus ce Project (LARC’s counterpart serving Central and Western Massachuse s) has logged an addi onal 404 cases from elders. Elders phone a toll-free number and are directed to select a number on their phone’s keypad based on the region of the state where they live to receive advice and assistance. The centralized helpline also is revealing some subtle diﬀerences between the legal needs older adults and the general popula on. “Close to 60 percent of calls coming into the senior helpline are related either to housing stability, such as evic ons and inability to pay rent or tax foreclosures, or consumer issues, such as debt collec on or bankruptcy and debt relief,” says Shaw. “Whereas with the general popula on, 45 percent of cases are related to housing and 14 percent concern consumer issues.” In addi on, notes Shaw, the poor economy is taking its toll in another way: unemployment issues, especially for seniors in their six es, nearly doubled in 2011 from previous years. The Boston area has seen a similar trend, with 340 cases related to housing problems and 240 related to consumer issues, including debt collec on harassment and bankruptcy. “Many elders can’t pay their debt and are ashamed or afraid because they’re receiving calls telling them that they are going to jail and their Social Security money will be taken,” says Previdi. “They are so relieved to find out that their income is protected.”
Shaw notes that the Massachuse s Jus ce Project hopes to set up a debt collec on clinic with volunteer a orneys in Worcester (the second largest city in Massachuse s) to represent clients in court. If the prototype is successful, he’d like to roll it out to other areas. The Volunteer Lawyers Project has been successful with this type of clinic in the Boston Municipal Court. Another trend uncovered through the senior helpline is increasing requests for wills and advance direc ves. To meet this increase, the Legal Advocacy and Resource Center partnered with the Women’s Bar Founda on to iden fy lawyers to provide this type of assistance to older lowincome adults in the greater Boston area. “It’s challenging to get pro bono work on an extended case, but these type of smaller bites might help busy a orneys to work it into their schedules,” says Shaw. Staﬀ of the senior helpline receive ini al in-house trainings on “nuts and bolts” issues, such as Medicare and Medicaid. Staﬀ con nue to develop their exper se on issues aﬀec ng seniors, such as through webinars from the Na onal Legal Resource Center, Na onal Consumer Law Center, the Center for Elder Rights Advocacy, and the Na onal Senior Ci zens Law Center. Going forward, Previdi says that she’d like to send out surveys to evaluate the progress of the helpline and have law students do follow up calls with the elders to find out if the advice they received was helpful and had a good outcome a er one month. “Having a centralized intake is a novelty in Massachuse s and is s ll a work in progress. We’ll keep tweaking the program for con nual improvement,” she says. “It’s so exci ng to have attorneys and representa ves from the Oﬃce of Elder Aﬀairs, students from diﬀerent law schools, and representa ves from various councils of aging and diﬀerent medical partnerships at the same table discussing how to improve access to legal and other services for elders throughout the state.” Shaw suggests that others considering se ng up a centralized advice and delivery system bring in advocates within their legal services community who are the experts and figure out how to make it fit with systems that are currently in place. “One challenge is that advocates felt somewhat territorial over their clients and saw this collec ve approach as them losing connec ons they had made,” he says. “Instead, approach it as an enhancement to help elders, and set it up so everyone feels a sense of ownership in crea ng the program,” he advises.
Upcoming Conferences CERA staﬀ serves on conference commi ees for the Equal Jus ce Conference and Na onal Aging and Law Ins tute. We try to make sure that workshops addressing the interests of the senior legal hotline managers are presented along with other workshops on legal service delivery innova ons. The Equal Jus ce Conference will take place on May 17-19 at the Hya Regency Jacksonville Riverfront in Florida. To get informa on and register click here. As always, there are at 17 workshops planned on legal services delivery innova ons, including several on ethics. Some exci ng workshops planned with many of our colleagues as presenters include: •Evalua ng the Eﬀec veness of Telephone Legal Hotlines •Interac ve Ethical Issues in Intake and Hotline Services •Low Bono: Serving Clients Above Tradi onal Eligibility Guidelines •Legal Hotlines and Beyond: Mul ple Func ons to Meet Mul ple Needs •Legal Assistane for At Risk Seniors: Innova ons in Legal Service Delivery that Preserve Independence and Financial Security
And of course, plan on seeing your old and new hotline pals at the annual Legal Hotline Meet and Greet. It’s not too early to make plans to a end the Na onal Aging and Law Ins tute which incorporates the goals of the old Na onal Aging and Law Conference. NALI will take place on November 8-10th at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. This year’s theme is “The Post Elec on Special Edi on”. Workshop proposals have just been submi ed. We will keep you updated on what is planned. NASLH will have its annual mee ng there. Hope to see you in JAX and DC!
Georgia Senior Legal Hotline Outcomes Study: Measuring our Clients’ Ability to take Legal Ac on and Quan fying the Positve Impacts on the Lives of our Clinets February 2012 - Highlights* The Georgia Senior Legal Hotline has been in opera on since 1998, serving seniors throughout the state. A program of Atlanta Legal Aid Society, it is housed at the State Oﬃce on Aging. The Georgia Senior Legal Hotline is a high volume program which opened over 4000 cases in 2011. The Hotline provides brief services and self-help advice. If the Hotline cannot resolve the client’s problem, it tries to refer the senior to a local free legal services program, a pro bono program, or to the private bar. On occasion, when the local free legal service provider does not have the resources to represent a senior in need, the Hotline may provide extended advice and service (always limited by the fact that it conducts all services by telephone, fax, mail, and e-mail). The Georgia Senior undertook the Legal Hotline Outcomes Study to answer these ques ons: •Do clients advised to take a specific ac on understand and act on the advice? •Do they understand the wri en materials the hotline sends? •Are their lives be er because of the hotline services? •What are the quan ta ve benefits, in monetary terms and other objec ve quan ta ve terms for clients who take ac on and benefit from that ac on? The Study was made possible through the support of the Borchard Founda on on Law and Aging, which paid for a Fellow to serve as Study Coordinator. He re-contacted flagged clients and recorded results for clients where (1) the hotline a orney thought client could either (a) take a rela vely simple ac on to resolve her dispute or gain relief or (b) in more complex cases, such as filing a pro se lawsuit or defending against a lawsuit, the client could not aﬀord to hire an attorney and there were no LSC-funded, III-B funded, or pro bono legal services available; and (2) the a orney did not know the outcome at the me she closed the case. Study Design A orneys flagged cases for clients advised to take to ac on in six areas of law: Consumer, Public Benefits, Landlord-Tenant, Power of A orney or Advance Direc ves, Qualified Income Trusts (QITs) and Probate and Wills. Each survey contained approximately 40 ques ons. The first secon of the survey captured demographic data including indicators of social isola on, to determine if any subgroups of seniors were more or less able to take the recommended ac on. The second sec on captured data on: •the specific type of case, •the specific ac on the a orney recommended, •what specific wri en materials, if any, the a orney mailed. The remainder of the survey captured data on: •whether the client was able to take the specific ac on recommended
•whether the client understood the wri en materials •whether the client called the Hotline back if she found that the ac on was too diﬃcult •whether the client understood the wri en materials •whether the client called the Hotline back if she found that the ac on was too diﬃcult to complete on her own and, •quan fiable outcomes data – e.g. monthly amount of food stamps received, amount of recovery in a consumer case, number of people retaining housing. Conduc ng and reviewing the surveys and then entering the survey data into Survey Monkey took, on average, 2-3 hours per completed survey. 174 surveys were completed for this report. Findings Aggregate findings for the six types of legal areas include: •68% (118) took the ac on recommend An addi onal 11 clients (6%) plan on taking the ac on and do not need further help; •73% (86) of those who took ac on reported things had go en be er; 14% (17) said they had mixed results; (53% who reported “mixed” improvement said they were s ll wai ng for the result of their ac on); 13% (15) reported no improvement •$166,744 in one me awards or amounts protected from garnishment, •$45,462 awarded in monthly public benefits , including QIT cases •90% - (156) of the surveyed clients said the Hotline was helpful. The study provides a detailed breakdown of data for each of the six flagged areas of law. The data for each area or law describes: •Frequency of par cular issues presented •The types of ac ons the client was advised to take •The types of changes for the be er the client experienced •Quan fiable measures of posi ve changes •Reasons for not taking ac on •Understandability of wri en materials sent to client. The study revealed several useful insights into the situa ons and types of clients where the hotline advice and materials were helpful. The findings show the Hotline’s self-help materials and advice can be used by seniors to achieve favorable outcomes in the following types of cases: 1.Debt collec on harassment cases. 2.Debt collec on lawsuits 3.Contract disputes 4.Credit report disputes 5.Landlord tenant disputes (where a dispossessory has not yet been filed) 6.Qualified Income Trusts 7.Simple probate cases Survey results indicated that clients were less likely to take recommended ac ons in the following types of cases: 1.Mortgage disputes 2.Execu ng Financial Powers of A orney and Advance Direc ves 3.Public Benefits applica ons and appeals, especially QMB/SLMB and veterans benefits And disability more than age, race, or ethnicity, was an indicator that the client would have difficulty taking the recommended ac on. Review of Hotline Procedures as a Result of the Survey One of the most important results of the survey is that it has allowed the Hotline to adjust its procedures to address some of the issues iden fied in the survey and reaﬃrm those procedures where the Hotline process is working well.
The survey findings have led the Georgia Senior Legal Hotline to create a mechanism for flagging and following up with clients who, because of disability or case type, may be less likely to take the recommended ac on and to research and iden ty new referral sources for clients who need in-person help with public benefits applica ons, financial powers of a orney, and mortgage disputes. The study shows Hotline benefits screening is very eﬀec ve; when a client does applies for benefits as a recommended ac on, the client is very likely to receive the benefits. However, the study also revealed that clients are confused when the a orney addresses more than one issue at a me, leading clients not to apply. To improve the likelihood that clients will apply for benefits, the Hotline has adopted the following prac ces: (1) Con nue to screen for benefits, but advise client on one issue at a me; if the attorney thinks the client may be eligible for a public benefit while discussing another ma er the client has called about, the a orney should schedule a second phone call with the client; (2) Follow up with clients advised to apply for QMB/SLMB and emphasize in the written materials that the client should contact Georgia Cares. Share study findings with Georgia Cares and the Area Agencies on Aging and explore ways to improve referrals so that clients get the help they need. (3) Create a simple flyer about veterans benefits with an emphasis on encouraging client to contact the local VSO and provide the number to the local VSO rather than an “800” number or the VA’s website; (4) Recruit volunteers to assist clients with on-line food stamps applica ons. With regard to the execu on of powers of a orney and advance direc ves, the survey revealed that the instruc on le er was very well understood but only 50% of clients understood the accompanying forms. Furthermore, the survey found that the clients least likely to execute the documents are individuals who “live alone.” To increase the eﬀec veness of its service in this area, the Hotline will flag these cases for follow up by a volunteer a orney or the original Hotline a orney, priori zing call backs to clients who live alone. The survey also led the Hotline to conclude that it can provide eﬀec ve brief services in certain probate cases that full service providers do not handle and can eﬀec vely assist seniors with This newsle er is proexecu ng simple changes to wills (codicils). duced by the Center for Elder Rights AdvoRead the full Georgia Senior Legal Hotlines Outcomes Report cacy, a partner in the Na onal Legal Re- *Georgia Senior Legal Hotline Outcomes Study: Measuring our clients’ ability to take recommended legal source Center. Other acƟon And QuanƟfying the posiƟve impact on the lives of our clients, Coordinator: Paul Black, JD 2010 partners in this eﬀort – 2011 Fellow Borchard FoundaƟon Center on Law & Aging; Supervisor and Report Author: Dina Franch, to provide support to Managing AƩorney, Georgia Senior Legal Hotline senior legal programs throughout the na on are Na onal Senior Ci zens Law Center, Na onal Consumer Law Center, The Center for Social Gerontology, and American Bar Associa on-Commission on Law and Aging. For ques ons, email CERA