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Annual Report 2017 - 2018

Effective partnerships benefit the community

Cross-sector partnerships help identify clients’ legal problems earlier and provide integrated services.

OBJECTIVE Access to justice

Achieving better health and legal outcomes for clients

Health Justice Partnerships (HJPs) establish collaborative ways of working to enhance the ability of clients engaged in health services to interact, seek, reach and engage with legal services. This model can facilitate timely identification of legal need(s), prevent or reduce the escalation of justice and health-related issues, generate greater awareness of legal issues and resolve and reduce the impact of legal stressors such as debt, housing insecurity and child removal.

Our partnerships with health services expanded over the year to include five new health justice partnerships in 2017–2018. These partnerships are located at:

  • We Help Ourselves (WHOS) Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Centre in Lilyfield
  • Coffs Harbour Health Campus
  • The Westmead Campus of the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network
  • The Community Hub at Kelso
  • The Fairfield Legal Aid NSW office at Fairfield*

We continued to be active participants in 19 other HJPs in NSW. These HJPs operated out of hospitals, mental health or drug and alcohol facilities, community centres, Aboriginal Medical Service centres and multi-service hubs in housing and residential estates.

In July 2017 we established an Executive Steering Group for HJPs. The purpose of the Steering Group is to provide highlevel leadership and oversight to Legal Aid’s work relating to HJPs. Its roles and responsibilities include supporting effective leadership and coordination across the justice sector in the establishment of HJPs in NSW.

We also developed a Statement of Strategic Intent to guide our HJP work. The Statement of Strategic Intent is to improve the health, wellbeing and legal outcomes of clients through integrated health and legal partnerships.

The HJP Community of Practice cross sector working group has continued bringing together experts in the health, legal and community service sector with an interest in the health justice partnership model to explore and share new research and developments in this area.

Legal Aid NSW has continued to chair the Sydney East Justice and Wellbeing Task Group which explores effective models of collaboration between Health and Justice sectors. Its members include representatives from the Department of Justice, Department of Premier and Cabinet, Department of Family and Community Services, Local Health Districts, Mental Health Commission, Health Justices Australia, Justice Connect and community legal centres.

* In a Legal Aid NSW first, we partnered with Credential Mental Health Nursing Service–to deliver the mental health services at Fairfield Legal Aid NSW office two days per week.

Case studies iconCase study

The partnership located at the Fairfield Legal Aid NSW office highlights the evolving nature of our health justice partnership work. Instead of placing a legal service in a health setting, the Fairfield model involved a mental health service, known as Credentialed Mental Health Nursing Service (CMHNS), delivering their services to their existing clients from the Fairfield Legal Aid NSW office for two half days per week. CMHNS screened clients to identify legal issues and refer clients to Legal Aid NSW. The service also keeps allocated appointments for Legal Aid NSW to refer our clients to the mental health service. As well as providing mental health services to Legal Aid NSW clients, CMHNS also assists our clients with reports to support their legal problems. Referrals from CMHNS to Legal Aid NSW provided early legal assistance to vulnerable clients who we might not have otherwise seen. The service is limited to existing clients of both the mental health service and Legal Aid NSW.

OBJECTIVE Strong partnerships

NSW–Victoria initiative aims for justice without borders

In 2017–2018 Legal Aid NSW and Victoria Legal Aid worked together to identify the legal issues faced by clients in crossborder communities and the barriers they experience when seeking timely legal assistance.

Living at the intersection of two sets of rules and systems makes understanding legal obligations more difficult, while residents may also be ineligible for services that are physically closer to them because of jurisdictional boundaries.

The key objective of the cross-border project was to reduce barriers to legal assistance for vulnerable people in communities close to the NSW and Victorian border. It was also to remove unnecessary complexity for both Legal Aid NSW and Victoria Legal Aid staff, panel practitioners and CLCs who deliver legal aid services in those regions.

Working together, Victoria Legal Aid and Legal Aid NSW aim to increase access to justice for all border communities by conducting joint and coordinated service planning in crossborder regions and advocating for improvements or reforms where necessary to reduce unnecessary bureaucracy for clients.

Cross border iniative meeting

A cross-border meeting with Legal Aid NSW and Victoria Legal Aid. L-R: Julia Barling (Project Manager), Brendan Thomas (CEO, Legal Aid NSW) and Bevan Warner (former Managing Director, Victoria Legal Aid)

Multi agency partnership delivers services to Redfern residents

RedLink is a multi-agency partnership led by Family and Community Services (FACS) providing intensive in-reach services and support to social housing residents in the Redfern high rise estate. Legal Aid NSW lawyers work in collaboration with the Redfern Legal Centre to assist clients with multiple legal issues including housing, Centrelink, debts and fines, immigration, family law, care and criminal matters.

More than 25 government agencies and non-government organisations (NGOs) are participating in the Redlink collaboration, including drug health, chronic and complex care, Aboriginal health, family and youth services, financial counselling, employment services and various charitable organisations.

NDIS consumer CLEs in partnership with Fair Trading NSW

In 2017, we partnered with Fair Trading NSW to deliver community legal education on consumer law issues surrounding National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) service agreements. The training addressed how Australian Consumer Law applies to the provision of disability services and avenues for dispute resolution, and was delivered to community workers, service providers and participants throughout NSW. The success of these workshops led to the production of a joint Legal Aid NSW and Fair Trading NSW webinar and podcast on NDIS and Consumer Law.