An evaluation of our Consumer Advice Service

The Consumer Advice Service (“CAS”or“the service”) is a free telephone legal advice service run by Consumer Action Law Centre(“Consumer Action”) for people living in Victoria.

Lawyers delivering the CAS provide information, advice, self-help resources and referrals by phone and email to people with consumer, credit, debt and insurance problems.

While any person living in Victoria may contact the CAS, lawyers generally provide only basic information and referrals to better resourced individuals and more help to people in vulnerable circumstances.

The CAS plays a central role in Consumer Action’s theory of change. The service aims to help people better understand their rights and options and enable them to exercise self-help with confidence so that they achieve better legal outcomes, experience less stress and worry, and use their story to advocate for systemic change. It is also one of the main sources of referrals for our casework service, which provides representation and casework assistance to clients selected through a formal intake process.

The main purpose of this evaluation was to assess whether the service is achieving these outcomes for vulnerable clients and to make recommendations for service improvement. A secondary purpose was to offer follow-up assistance to clients who may need it.

The period covered by the evaluation was one of the most tumultuous, disruptive and unsettling of any time in recent decades owing to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Living through the pandemic has profoundly impacted our staff, the workers and clients who use our services, and the broader Victorian community in ways that are continuing and that we are still learning about.

However, far from being a reason to defer this evaluation, the pandemic makes evaluating the service for reach and effectiveness more important than ever.

Read the full report (PDF).

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