The last quarter has been a time of significant growth and expansion at First Step Legal, despite the constraints of lockdown.
After months of service design and planning, we have proudly commenced two new health justice partnerships: one with the Star Health family violence program, and the other with Alfred Health’s St Kilda Road Clinic.
The Star Health family violence program delivers men’s behavioural change groups supported by family safety contact workers and family violence counselling for affected family members and specialist support services for affected children. We were impressed with the client-centred model adopted by Star Health and its integrated, holistic approach to working with perpetrators and victim survivors to achieve long term behaviour change. In May 2021, our family lawyer, Tom Mainwaring, started working one day per week from the Star Health service in South Melbourne, with regular visits to other locations as client needs demanded.
The St Kilda Road Clinic provides outpatient, community mental health services via five differentiated case management teams. It also operates the Homeless Outreach Psychiatric Service, the Mobile Support Team and the Brief Service Response. While some specialist legal services target mental health inpatients, the legal needs of community mental health outpatients are chronically underserviced. In July 2021, our criminal law and generalist lawyer, Elizabeth Frampton, began operating from the St Kilda Road Clinic for two half days per week.
As always, our approach has been to embed legal help in collaborative case management practices that address the underlying drivers of our clients’ contact with the justice system. Already, we have assisted over forty clients whose legal needs may otherwise have gone unmet, assisting them to navigate the legal process and privileging their voices and perspectives along the way.
Integral to the stability of each new partnership is a set of formal protocols and an overarching operating agreement. Each is governed by a Steering Committee, with representation from consumers and senior management of the partner organisations.
These new partnerships are a welcome addition to our longstanding collaboration the Windana Therapeutic Community at Maryknoll, enabling us to reach a greater number of clients in a wider range of settings.