Collaborating in times of crisis to build back better
2 February 2021 at 8:19 am
Experts say more investment is needed to support and foster cross-sector relationships in times of crisis
Strong collaboration between health and justice services in 2020 not only protected vulnerable people but provided new solutions for Australia to build back better, a new report finds.
The report, released by Health Justice Australia, found that cross-sector community services that were well established and had good relationships with one another were able to respond to the rapidly changing needs of their communities during the pandemic.
There was a particular need for this at the beginning of the pandemic when many people with chronic health problems were staying away from health services to protect themselves against infection.
The report pointed to one instance where amid the height of COVID, lawyers who would usually spend time in hospitals helping vulnerable people with their legal problems, resorted to working with social workers who were allowed in hospitals to stay in contact with their most vulnerable patients and clients.
While community services were found to respond rapidly to changing needs in their community, this was not always matched by the government.
Report author and Health Justice Australia CEO Dr Tessa Boyd-Caine told Pro Bono News that this was pertinent when services supporting mental health and addiction faced the challenge of clients not being able to safely access their methadone treatment because of COVID-19 restrictions.
“The responsiveness of government in recognising the need for a different policy solution was sometimes really lacking,” Boyd-Caine said.
She said that an important learning from the crisis was that investment in community infrastructure to foster and strengthen collaboration between sectors was critical.
“Much of the effort that health and legal services had already put in over previous years really came into its own in responding to the crises of 2020,” she said.
“But services need to be invested in and supported to do that work so that they are at the forefront of crisis response and recovery.”
The report also noted that investing in community infrastructure would not only build strong and resilient communities, but it would support governments to improve their responsiveness in future crises.
“Health and legal assistance services collaborating around these problems provided new and innovative responses to rapidly changing needs that can help Australia build back better,” Boyd-Caine said.
See a full copy of the report here.