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Best Practice

Vol. 10, No. 3

On Delivery of Legal Assistance to Older Persons

March 2000

Contents Entire March 2000 Edition of Best Practice Notes Newsletter
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Legal Assistance and Outcome Measures

The concept of outcome measures, or performance outcomes, which seek to gain information on the "impact" or "benefits" in the lives of individuals receiving a particular service, has been around for years in the delivery of legal assistance. However, using outcome measures has become more popular in the last year or two for the provision of legal assistance to low income older persons.

Much of this attention is due to the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), which requires Federal agencies to submit to the Office of Management and Budget and Congress a strategic plan and annual performance plans and reports to detail the goals and outcomes of the agency. Further, developments such as the 1995 cuts in Legal Services Corporation funding have led many providers, who are forced to "do more with less," to look for better ways to demonstrate the enormous impact legal assistance programs have in the lives of low income individuals.

More and more legal assistance providers are using outcome measures in their reporting systems for another reason—because they make good management sense. In an era that has seen government funding reduced, providers have been forced to broaden their funding searches. In doing so, many providers have found that outcome measures are effective tools in providing evidence that resources are actually producing results for the clients. Outcome measures also have an impact on a provider’s staff. By emphasizing staff achievements, not simply numbers of cases opened and closed, providers using outcome measures demonstrate to staff how important and valued their work is.

TCSG feels outcome measures, if carefully planned and implemented, have tremedous potential for delivering meaningful information on the impact legal assistance has in the lives of low-income older persons. For all of these reasons, this issue of Best Practice Notes presents an overview of the concept of outcomes measures for legal assistance programs, specifically as it applies to programs serving older persons. As an overview, it describes the impetus for the increased significance of outcome measures, explains the measures themselves, how they can be used, and how and where they "fit" with traditional reporting systems.

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The Center for Social Gerontology, Inc.
A National Support Center in Law and Aging
2307 Shelby Avenue  Ann Arbor, MI  48103
Tel: (734) 665-1126  Fax: (734) 665-2071