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Assessing legal needs and capability for health justice partnership: The experience at Neami National

In 2021, Neami National and Health Justice Australia started working together to set the foundations for and pilot health justice partnerships (HJPs) in three of its service sites.

Neami National is a community-based organisation providing services in more than 70 locations around Australia to improve mental health and wellbeing in local communities. Neami services include community based mental health and wellbeing services (including Head to Health Services), urgent mental health care services, recovery support, youth mental health, homelessness support, and throughcare services for people exiting prison with severe mental health issues.

This paper, Assessing legal needs and capability for health justice partnership: The experience at Neami National, summarises research undertaken to explore the potential for HJPs in Neami sites. It draws together findings from two complementary projects.

The first was a baseline survey sent to 999 frontline staff working in 70 mental health and wellbeing service sites across Australia, with 146 responses (14.6%). The survey examined the types of legal issues that frontline Neami staff see their consumers experiencing, and what staff feel they need to support consumers experiencing these issues. It also explored Neami staff perceptions of lawyers and justice systems, noting the importance of trust as a foundation to collaborative partnership.

The second project involved in-depth legal needs assessments in three Neami sites, to help identify, based on need, potential legal service partners in those locations. Appropriate partner legal services are those that prioritise and can provide the legal help required by the client groups that Neami is already serving: people who are experiencing unmet legal need and who face particular barriers to accessing legal assistance directly. In each site, we assessed the types of legal issues likely to arise based on the profile of consumers in each site and legal needs evidence about those cohorts, together with semi-structured interviews and focus groups with 18 staff across the three sites.

Download the full report to read about our findings.

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Health justice partnership uses legal help to improve client outcomes, offering one avenue for more holistic responses to compounding issues around mental ill-health.

Insights paper