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Annual Report 2010 - 2011

Holistic services

Meeting clients’ complex needs

The social workers in our Client Assessment and Referral Unit work collaboratively with lawyers to ensure the best possible outcomes for clients.

They do this by preparing psychosocial assessments for use in court that address the complex range of social difficulties underlying people’s legal problems.

They also link clients to other services that can assist them. Divisional plans across the organisation promote a greater use of social workers, especially for clients with complex needs.

Major achievement

Priority 1: Social inclusion

Social workers assisted 444 clients referred to the unit, mostly by the criminal law practice.

They assessed 332 clients, providing 128 psychosocial reports for use in court and making 65 referrals to other agencies. Clients needed assistance with a range of issues, key areas being mental health, intellectual disability, drugs and alcohol, homelessness and parenting.

A new funded position allowed the unit to dedicate more resources to assisting clients with an intellectual disability or acquired brain injury, being dealt with under s 32 of the Mental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act 1990. Enhanced assessment and referral services – part of the Intellectual Disability Service Improvement Project – helped to divert clients facing criminal charges away from the justice system.

Making sure people get the right service

A strong focus of our work this year was to make sure our clients are reaching services they need to reach instead of becoming lost in the system or referred to the wrong place – often called the ‘referral roundabout’.

Major achievement

Priority 3: Integrated services

A number of strategies improved referrals to and from Legal Aid NSW for clients. A new database of all the services provided across our practice areas, including outreach services is now being used to provide a map of our services on the Legal Aid NSW website. Clients can search for services via the postcode or the town they live in.

New measures that are improving referrals between Legal Aid NSW and LawAccess NSW include monitoring inappropriate referrals between the agencies and regular staff visits.

New protocols and tools have been developed to assist our staff in making appropriate referrals for our clients.

We are improving our knowledge of how our clients find out about us and services they are referred to through collecting data. This will allow us to better track client pathways and develop strategies to promote our services to clients.

Advocating for a multi agency approach - Danielle Castles at a forum during Law Week in NowraAdvocating for a multi-agency approach – Danielle Castles from Legal Aid NSW (seated) explains the benefits of the Shoalhaven pilot project to legal and health professionals at a forum in Nowra during Law Week (May 2011). Photo: Law Society Journal.

Planning ahead

Year ahead

Develop a case plan for s 32 orders for people with an intellectual disability or an acquired brain injury — part of a Nowra Local Court pilot project.

Improve referrals for our clients, making sure our partners have a clear understanding of our services.

Key challenge

To develop early intervention services and approaches for Legal Aid NSW clients across all our program areas. A planning day scheduled for August 2011 will identify new priorities for the Client Assessment and Referral Unit and develop a more responsive approach to service delivery.