Across Australia, over one in five people have three or more legal needs in a given year.
Many of them are some of the most vulnerable and marginalised in our community – making them hard to reach.
And they are far more likely to raise their legal needs with a trusted health professional like a GP, community nurse or social worker, than with a lawyer.
That’s why, since 2012, health and legal organisations have been building collaborations called health justice partnerships to improve their responsiveness and effectiveness in meeting health and legal needs in Australia.
Adding a lawyer to the healthcare team means that healthcare professionals are more able to spot a legal problem and have someone nearby who can solve it. And because legal problems can affect health, it means patients get better, more holistic healthcare too. Working together, they can better identify and respond to the legal and social needs, making it harder to be healthy – and stop their existing problems from reaching crisis point.
What are legal problems that affect health?
Some of the problems that Health Justice Partnerships can solve are:
• getting landlords to make housing repairs that improve health, such as treating mould or adding handrails;
• helping people with accumulated fines or debt that cause them anxiety or prevent them meeting health care costs like prescriptions and co-payments; or
• advising on the legal needs that can emerge with illness such as wills, powers of attorney, accessing superannuation and custody.