Integrated practice the key to complex service responses
9 September 2021 at 8:08 am
To mark the launch of the Eastern Community Legal Centre’s Better Practice Principles report, Marika Manioudakis explores the importance of integrated approaches to addressing complex issues and shares the 15 principles that have proven successful when adopting this approach.
Brenda is a 68-year-old mother of four and grandmother of nine. She had been living alone following her divorce and since her adult children moved out.
She lent $400,000 to her youngest son Grant to buy a property, with a verbal agreement he would build a house and granny flat for her to live in. During construction she was forced to live in a tent and then a caravan park.
Brenda lived there for some time before the relationship with Grant deteriorated. His angry outbursts became more frequent and included verbal abuse, threats and property damage.
Brenda was forced to find safe accommodation through a family violence service and moved out. Grant refused to pay back her loan, leaving Brenda with no home and almost no income.
Things changed when Brenda was referred to Eastern Community Legal Centre’s ROSE program by her family violence service. ROSE provided a community lawyer, elder abuse advocate and financial counsellor who worked together to understand her situation and give her the information she needed to make informed choices about her future.
Brenda gained the support she needed to safely pursue her legal options and escape her son’s abuse. She had professional legal and financial advice to give her confidence and support in planning for her future. Through the interventions of the ROSE team, Grant agreed to a weekly repayment plan and a number of lump sums.
Anyone who has worked in health, housing, mental health, family violence or other support services knows that situations like this are common.
Two years ago, the Victorian Legal Services Board funded Eastern Community Legal Centre to draw on our expertise in integrated services, like ROSE, to lead a collaboration on principles that could be shared with other community legal centres implementing integrated practice programs.
Today, I have the pleasure of launching our Integrated Practice – Better Practice Principles report, which is the result of this work.
The report identifies 15 principles across three distinct areas that have proven successful in previous integrated practice programs.
The first area covers program principles, comprising essential elements of service design, governance and operational coordination between funders and partners.
1. Strong partnerships and relationships
2. Shared vision, purpose and objectives
3. Clear rationale for level of integration
4. Well-documented and regularly reviewed program policy and guidelines
5. Evidence-informed practice and practice-informed evidence
The second area is practitioner principles, covering critical capacities for program practitioners regardless of their area of expertise.
6. Understand and support professional obligations
7. Clear role definition and team structure
8. Practitioner skills specific to integrated practice
9. Inter-professional understanding and respect
10. Shared practice
Finally, the third area is focused on principles relating to client-centred practice, covering the importance of co-design and lived experience.
11. Person-centred support, including flexible service delivery
12. Cultural safety: Culturally informed and community-led
13. Managing confidentiality
14. Ongoing identification, mitigation and management of risk
15. Continuity of care, continuity of service
Eastern Community Legal Centre’s multidisciplinary team, and our partnerships formed with Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations, local councils, hospitals, mental health services and others, have enabled us to develop expertise in integrated practice and to test these principles with a diverse group of clients.
I can personally vouch for the remarkable outcomes that we’ve seen when services and practitioners are integrated to provide each person with a tailored and comprehensive response to their complex needs.
The community legal sector has led the way in forging integrated practice and health justice partnerships and we offer governments new options in funding smarter and more effective approaches.
Eastern Community Legal Centre and other services like ours are breaking down silos and bringing together practitioners in a way that offers new hope to people who have not been able to access or receive adequate responses from existing service systems.
I hope that our report launched today will help share what we have learned and contribute to more of this work, with a broader range of partners, in the future.
Eastern Community Legal Centre would like to thank the RMIT’s Centre for Innovative Justice, Federation of Community Legal Centres, Hume Riverina Community Legal Service, Justice Connect, knowmore Legal Service, Springvale Monash Legal Service, West Heidelberg Legal Service and Women’s Legal Service Victoria for collaborating on this project and sharing their expertise and insights.
Find out more about Eastern Community Legal Centre and download the Better Practices Report here.