Philanthropic Funding to Explore Health and Justice Service Collaborations
4 October 2017 at 3:09 pm
National charity Health Justice Australia has received major philanthropic funding to explore whether a systemic shake up to the delivery of health and justice services can improve outcomes for vulnerable Australians.
The charity has secured a $3 million philanthropic grant from the Paul Ramsay Foundation to examine whether increased collaboration between health and justice services can give more Australians access to the support they need – just one year into its operations.
Established in 2016, Health Justice Australia works with lawyers and health professionals to create partnerships that allow vulnerable Australians to access free legal advice through their local health services.
CEO of Health Justice Australia Dr Tessa Boyd-Caine said Australia’s most vulnerable people continued to fall through the gaps between health and human services.
“We know that 8.5 million Australians experience three or more legal problems a year,” Boyd-Caine said.
“We also know that health and justice issues are often linked – for example, mould left unaddressed in rental housing can cause respiratory problems.
“With lawyers working in health services, as part of health teams, to deliver the range of services people need in the familiar settings they trust, we can reshape the way we address these kinds of related issues.”
She said the funding, to be invested over the next three years, would allow Health Justice Australia to build on the work of more than 20 health justice partnerships already operating in Australia, and evaluate their impact.
“This funding will give us the resources we need to systematically evaluate the effectiveness of existing health justice partnerships and, if proven, build a case for rolling out the program on a national scale,” she said.
“We believe these partnerships, which began organically through effective collaborations at a local level, can become a strong and coordinated network driving innovation in health and legal services, and lead to improved services to those most in need.”
Boyd-Caine told Pro Bono News that the philanthropic funding would go to three key activities.
“One is to map, in a systematic way, what is already taking place in terms of health justice partnerships across the country.
“The second activity is to develop an evaluation framework that enables a comparable and rigorous process of evaluation across these partnerships.
“The good news to date in terms of partnerships is that almost all of them have had some form of evaluation but that has mostly been local so this will enable us to elevate that to a more comparable measure.
“The third activity is to identify the feasibility of health justice partnerships in terms of an agenda to expand them and indeed to identify the feasibility of Health Justice Australia ourselves.”
Boyd-Caine said what was interesting about the funding was that the process was a way of testing and demonstrating the value both of health justice partnerships and the organisation itself.
She agreed the funding was a significant commitment by the Paul Ramsay Foundation.
“There is already an evidence base which of course is crucial in our discussions with the Paul Ramsay Foundation… There’s the evidence that the health justice partnerships in Australia have already developed and that feeds into an international evidence base particularly, but not only, from the United States where these partnerships have been running for over 20 years and much of the work in the Australian context has borrowed from the lessons of that work in the US,” she said.
“That is a significant part of the story that we would like to test with rigour the effectiveness of this model in the Australian context. And how that might vary what is the difference between legal services for people within a hospital setting compared to a community setting. Are we able to achieve particular outcomes for people experiencing family violence or in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and applying that to the particular context of Australia?”
The Paul Ramsay Foundation’s backing builds on Health Justice Australia’s founding grant received from the Clayton Utz Foundation and community legal centre Justice Connect, along with funding and support received from philanthropists, health, legal and research organisations over the last year.
CEO of the Paul Ramsay Foundation, Simon Freeman, said he and his team were looking forward to working collaboratively with Health Justice Australia “to support their growth and bold push to challenge norms within the health and justice sectors”.
“Health Justice Australia has identified a specific area where innovation and shifting established systems could significantly and positively impact the lives of vulnerable Australians,” Freeman said.
“We’re excited to be supporting Tessa and her team on their mission, and look forward to testing whether disruption to the current health and justice systems could effectively lead to more Australians receiving the support they need.”