As rising interest rates and increasing cost of living pressures make headlines in Australia, researchers and advocates are drawing attention to how financial challenges compound other life challenges.
Anne Summers’ recent report, ‘The Choice: Violence or Poverty’, demonstrated how lack of money stops women from separating from violent partners, or leads them to return to violent partners after attempting to leave.
Another example is research from New South Wales Council of Social Services (NCOSS) showing how poverty affects mental and physical health, with those on low income not being able to afford medication, health or essential travel, and those living below the poverty line being twice as likely to report not having met up with family and friends in the past month.
Such intersecting challenges will be familiar to those working in health justice partnership. Health justice partnerships connect healthcare and legal assistance to give people access to help for their problems when and where they need it. By working together, health and legal services can start to address the complex problems in people’s lives in ways they couldn’t do working separately – and often financial challenges are part of these complex problems.
Health Justice Australia’s research
Health Justice Australia is researching how health justice partnerships assist clients with financial challenges and contribute to their financial wellbeing. We’ve started by reviewing evaluations of these partnerships. Most of these evaluations did not have financial wellbeing outcomes as a specific focus of assessment, but they did include case studies, and these case studies show that financial issues are often intertwined with other health and justice issues. For example, case studies from these evaluations show how debt from loans can cause stress that hinders recovery from addiction; how the loss of a license can lead to loss of income and therefore housing; how financial abuse can derail retirement plans and contribute to health issues.
From these case studies we can see that many health justice partnerships assist clients with a broad range of legal issues related to financial wellbeing, even if financial wellbeing is not a stated focus of their work. Other partnerships do focus on supporting people with financial challenges and may be valuable models for addressing the intersections between financial and other life challenges.
The next steps
The next step in our research is to learn more about the breadth and distribution of the work health justice partnerships do in relation to financial wellbeing, by surveying representatives from each health justice partnership in our network. We’ll also be interviewing a range of people about the current practice and future potential of health justice partnership when it comes to supporting financial wellbeing.
What are we hoping to learn from this research? Apart from better understanding how health justice partnerships contribute to the financial wellbeing of their clients, we want to identify opportunities to better support health justice partnership to achieve and measure financial wellbeing outcomes. This is part of Health Justice Australia’s broader program of work to support a shared understanding among health justice services about the outcomes that health and legal services can achieve by coming together in partnership, and how to measure and evaluate these outcomes.
If you would like more information about our financial wellbeing project or would like to participate in interviews, please contact our Research and Evaluation Lead, Ruth Pitt, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Update: dig into the results of this research in our financial wellbeing report.