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Integration Services

We work in an integrated setting to make sure our clients receive holistic support and are linked to other services that can assist them. The LAW Survey highlights the potential benefits of a more integrated approach to service delivery and suggests some strategies that may be useful in achieving such an approach.

First, the many different types of non-legal advisers that the community commonly consults in relation to legal problems could be more systematically used as gateways to legal services.

Second, increased coordination among legal services to provide a more client-focused approach for people who experience multiple legal problems, most notably disadvantaged people, is likely to be of value.

Third, more client-focused services for disadvantaged people may also require better coordination between legal services and other human services, given that such people tend to have non-legal needs in addition to their legal problems.

Models of service integration

Integration among legal services or across both legal and non-legal services can be achieved via a variety of models. Service integration is typically conceptualised as a continuum (Cortis, Chan & Hilferty 2009; Fine, Pancharatnam & Thomson 2005; Horwath & Morrison 2007; Lappin 2010; Lennie 2010; Leutz 1999). At one extreme, slight integration involves agencies remaining completely autonomous but developing some cooperative links. At the other extreme, full integration involves agencies combining to form new units with pooled resources. Moderate integration models involve a series of increasingly more intensive linkages between separate agencies (Fine et al. 2005). For example, moderate integration models involve harmonising various activities to minimise duplication between agencies and may also involve more integrated client-focused or case management approaches (Fine et al. 2005).

Thus, slight integration of legal services in Australia could simply involve better cooperative links, via promotion of improved networking and referral, between various public and private legal service providers without the need for them to surrender their independence. One example of slight integration of legal services is the use of quality legal triage services to provide an initial diagnosis of legal needs and referral to specialist legal services as appropriate. Similarly, slight integration of legal and non-legal services may, as discussed earlier, involve more systematic referrals to legal services from non-legal professionals or could further involve bidirectional referrals and cooperative links. More intensive integration models may, for example, involve ‘service hubs’ or ‘one-stop shops’ that co-locate different legal services or both legal and non-legal services. Service hubs aim to improve the accessibility of services by providing a convenient entry point, such as a location frequented by the client group. In addition to facilitating referrals between agencies, service hubs can also involve more intensively integrated services by adopting a more client-focused or case management approach across services (Coumarelos et al. 2006; Fine et al. 2005; Forell et al. 2005). For example, they could involve more systematic diagnosis of a client’s full range of legal and non-legal needs at entry, followed by a case plan for addressing all of those needs through coordinated response across services.

Increased integration among a variety of human services has become the focus of recent whole-of-government social inclusion policies in several countries, including Australia (Australian Government 2009a; Vinson 2009). Such policies target demographic groups that experience multiple disadvantage and aim to address the multiple causes and impacts of disadvantage by a joined-up approach to service provision across numerous government and non-government human services. Some of these policies explicitly nominate access to justice as a priority area and aim to include legal services within the network of joined-up human services.

As noted earlier, the UK has been a world leader in establishing integrated legal and non-legal services. For example, UK initiatives have included co-locating citizens advice bureaus within health settings (Balmer et al. 2006; Kemp et al. 2007; Pleasence 2006). More recently, a major large-scale initiative in the UK introduced CLACs and CLANs to provide integrated social welfare law services by coordinating various legal and non-legal services (Buck et al. 2010b). CLACs involve co-locating services within single centres, whereas CLANs involve enhancing coordination between a network of local services in areas where population densities do not facilitate single centres. CLACs and CLANs are service hubs that aim to provide ‘accessible’ services through the provision of convenient entry points to service delivery. Furthermore, they involve client-focused or case management approaches via ‘seamless’, ‘integrated’ and ‘tailored’ service delivery. That is, they aim to provide service delivery that is ‘seamless’ from entry through to aftercare via good coordination and referral, ‘integrated’ in that it detects and addresses all the problems experienced by the client, and ‘tailored’ to allow for intensive support for the most vulnerable clients (Buck et al. 2010b). A process evaluation of CLACs found two key benefits: the convenience of a range of advice expertise ‘under one roof’ and knowledge transfer among service providers (Buck et al. 2010b). CLANs were not included in this evaluation, because they were not operational at the time of fieldwork.

Similarly, the US has seen a proliferation of community law services involving collaboration between different professionals. In some of these collaborations, lawyers are the predominant service providers. In others, lawyers provide a secondary or supportive role to non-legal professionals. Other collaborations involve lawyers working with non-legal professionals in an integrated fashion to meet multiple client needs (Castles 2008).

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