Integrated Legal Services: Lessons from West Heidelberg CLS
(2012) 37 (1) Alternative Law Journal 26
5 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2012
International and Australian research has established links between legal and health need, particularly for people with chronic illness and disability; links between social exclusion and clusters of legal need; and the prevalence of non-legal services as the first port of call for assistance with legal need. These findings provide strong support for integrating the provision of legal services with health and welfare services and for establishing good referral practices between legal services and non-legal community and health services.
The studies that establish the link between legal, health and social need suggest that a holistic approach to service delivery between legal, health and other community services could help to meet the needs of people and communities facing significant levels of social exclusion. Within the legal aid and community legal centre sector, those who have worked in integrated services are convinced of the benefits and can easily cite individual examples in support. There is little empirical or qualitative material in Australia to support these observations or detail the key features of this approach to legal service delivery.
This article details briefly the findings of a research project that gathered data on the work and practices of the West Heidelberg Community Legal Service (WHCLS) which has been collocated with Banyule Community Health (BCH) for thirty years. It identifies the five key features of integrated legal services and then focuses on the analysis of what facilitates and impedes integrated legal services at WHCLS.
Keywords: Integrated legal services, community legal services, health and legal
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