INCREASING money for free legal services could help improve the early detection of family violence on the Mornington Peninsula and in Frankston.
The Peninsula Community Legal Centre, which has offices in Frankston, Rosebud and Cranbourne, says increasing the financing of “health justice partnerships” is a key to improving the early detection of family violence.
In a submission to Victoria’s mental health royal commission, the legal centre says “specialist pathways” are needed to connect patients who are victims of domestic violence to lawyers experienced in psychosocial health and family violence.
These pathways must come from both the public and private health sectors.
The submission is aimed at “improving the provision of legal services to those suffering psychosocial disability”.
“Our recommendations aim to improve the provision of legal assistance to the most disadvantaged and vulnerable clients in our community,” the submission stated. “These recommendations are informed by our extensive work with those experiencing psychosocial disability.
“The fact that 28 per cent of our general legal services clients experience psychosocial health issues, directs our recommendation for a substantial increase in funding to the legal assistance sector to support clients with complex needs when facing family law matters, fines, tenancy issues, civil and criminal legal matters.
“Over 50 per cent of our family law clients experience family violence and we have seen the detrimental impact that exposure to family violence can have on our client’s mental well being.
“As part of our recommendations, we see the funding of health justice partnerships as key to improving the early detection of family violence.
“Specialist pathways to the legal sector provided through the public and private health system, are vital in connecting patients to lawyers that are trained/experienced in both psychosocial health and family violence.
The legal centre said early detection of family violence and relevant referrals “can improve the mental wellbeing of a client/patient and make their journey through the legal process less protracted”.
Working off fines
PENINSULA Community Legal Centre’s infringement clients have on average owe more than $11,000 in fines.
The legal centre’s fines clinic has been running for more than three years and has created a work and development permit scheme to help clients “work off” fines.
The Legal Services Board has given the PCLC the go ahead to integrate the scheme into Melbourne’s southern region.
Ways clients can reduce fines include undergoing treatment by a health practitioner or drug and alcohol counselling; doing unpaid work; studying a course; or attending a mentoring program (under 25 years).
PCLC is looking for sponsors from the health care sector to become involved in the project.