Collaboration helps services respond to complex problems
Health justice partnerships are collaborations to integrate legal help into services that support people’s health and wellbeing.
Life can get complicated, and people rarely experience problems in neat ways. Yet our service systems are structured in a way that approaches problems as though they are isolated and distinct.
Health justice partnerships provide integrated health and legal care for individual clients. They build the capability of health and legal practitioners and services to provide more holistic person-centred care. They also advocate for change which improves the health and wellbeing of communities.
Who do health justice partnerships support?
Health justice partnerships support people who are not well served by existing service systems, whose problems don’t fit neatly into separate boxes for health, legal and other services.
This includes people who are particularly at risk of poor health and unmet legal need, including people experiencing domestic and family violence, people experiencing mental ill-health, people at risk of elder abuse, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, culturally and linguistically diverse communities and people experiencing poverty.
What are the legal problems that affect people’s health?
Health justice partnerships provide legal support across a wide range of areas that can affect people’s health, including family violence, family law, fines, housing, child protection issues, and credit and debt.
The legal help partnerships provide includes:
- Advocating for public housing tenants needing repairs to address untreated mould, or having handrails and other aids installed so that people with mobility impairments can continue living independently in their own homes
- Assisting people with accumulated fines or debt that cause stress or act as a barrier to meeting health costs like filling prescriptions
- Advising on options for people experiencing family violence or elder abuse; and supporting their healthcare professionals to respond appropriately when they identify these needs among their patients
A fresh start
Lisa is a young mum of two children, pregnant with a third, who recently moved interstate to flee a violent relationship.
Lisa shared her concerns about her violent ex-partner and her unstable housing situation with her midwife. She was fearful for herself and her children. Lisa’s midwife recognised that many of Lisa’s challenges could be solved by the clinic’s health justice partnership, where the clinic’s social work team collaborates with a lawyer to provide free legal assistance to patients who need it.
The health justice lawyer made an urgent application to the court for an order to protect Lisa’s children and prevent her ex-partner entering the state. Simultaneously, the social work team secured alternative accommodation and additional community-based support for Lisa and her children. With the order successfully granted by the court, Lisa is now living safely with her two children as they eagerly await the arrival of her third.
All this was possible because the health clinic has a health justice partnership.
Our submission following consultation with the Attorney-General’s Department on the design on legal assistance services.
We encourage the NSW Government to explore the practice and potential of health justice partnership as part of the early support services provided to children and their families.