Earlier this year we ran a number of sessions for health professionals at Bendigo Community Health Services. The sessions were part of our Advocacy-Health Alliances project, which seeks to establish partnerships between legal and health services and to raise awareness of the unmet legal needs of vulnerable families and their children as social determinants of health.
The sessions covered four key areas: Introduction to Advocacy-Health Alliances; Identifying Family Violence; Family Breakdown; Homelessness, Infringements and Financial Issues.
Participants clearly thought the content was useful for their work, improved their understanding of legal issues and their impacts on clients, and gave them a greater awareness of referral pathways available to clients.
The Advocacy-Health Alliance sessions improved participants’ understanding of the differences and similarities in ethical obligations of lawyers and health professionals and improved their confidence around identifying legal issues.
One participant noted that the session was “Very informative, [it] gave me a clear understanding of the differences between health and legal”.
Almost 95% of participants who attended the family violence session thought that the session was useful to their work or role. Critically, a high percentage of participants had improved confidence in their ability to identify family violence and to make appropriate referrals for clients experiencing family violence.
In relation to family breakdown, there were substantial improvements in participants’ understanding of the subject matter, its impact on clients, and appropriate referral pathways. One participant noted “Excellent presentation, Good examples to support the legal aspects”. Another described the presentation as “Excellent… very comprehensive, useful and detailed”. Understanding around the legal issues surrounding child protection matters and their impact on clients rose from 48% to 92%. Understanding of the legal issues surrounding family law disputes and their impact on clients rose from 27% to 89%.
Before the Homelessness, Infringements and Financial Issues session, only 24% of participants believed they had a good understanding of the legal issues surrounding infringements and their impact on clients. Following the session, this figure had risen to 76%. Again, participants had an improved understanding of appropriate referral pathways.
The Advocacy-Health Alliance project is funded by the Clayton Utz Foundation. The Victoria Law Foundation provided funding to allow us develop and deliver legal training to Bendigo health practitioners. The training materials developed for these sessions have also been used for presentations to BRIT students and others.