Author(s): Elizabeth Curran
Research by the Legal Services Research Centre (UK) and the Australian LAW Survey demonstrates that unresolved legal problems are likely to have deleterious impact on stress and health outcomes. Individuals only consult lawyers for about 16% of their legal problems and a key access point for disadvantaged individuals is the health profession. Research shows legal problems have a detrimental impact on the health and well being of individuals.
The Health Justice Partnerships (HJP) see lawyers working alongside health and allied health professionals to reach clients with a range of problems capable of legal solutions e.g. debt, family violence, poor housing, consumer issues, care and protection, human rights, access to services. The author is evaluating and assisting in some start –ups of HJPs across Australia and in Canada. She will discuss her work so far but the paper focuses on the project that is the most advanced in Bendigo.
The Bendigo Health Justice Partnership (HJP) project is a partnership between ARC Justice’s Program and Bendigo Community Health Service. The HJP project aims to address the social determinants of health capable of legal redress. The partnership is based on the understanding that many vulnerable and disadvantaged people do not consult lawyers for problems instead they see their trusted health worker.
An embedded evaluation is being undertaken by Dr Liz Curran of ANU examining not only the effectiveness of the service but also measuring the social determinants of health. Dr Curran has a practical background in the community health sector. Critically, this evaluation includes the clients and service providers and their experience in its process.
With ethics approval the evaluation is gathering qualitative as well as quantitative data in a context where there is little money for evaluation and services are keen to evaluate. This paper will discuss the evaluative process, present findings and some lessons emerging so far, in this three year longitudinal study. The study uses a participatory action research approach within a model of continuous reflection, development and improvement so as to inform policy and funding building and empirical evidence base to good practice to reach people who would otherwise not gain legal help.It measures the impacts on social determinants of health, an area largely un-chartered and so this methodology hopes to add to the polity around how social determinants of health might be measured and what they look like in reality for people affected.
The Final Report is due to be finalised at the end of 2016.