Strategic Service Delivery Model developed in Australia
The National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) has developed a Strategic Service Delivery Model for providing community legal services in Australia. The model illustrates how in Australia, public legal education is recognised as an integral part of providing a community legal service.
This strategic service model builds on the approach to providing a legal service undertaken by community legal centres. The centres combine the provision of legal information, advice, and casework services to individuals, with community legal education, law reform, and community-capacity building projects, such as those illustrated in the picture above.
The first phase in the strategic service delivery model is to make a legal needs assessment of the community served by the community legal centre. Along with the needs assessment, the centre surveys other legal service providers and community organisations about the services they provide, to discover any gaps in service delivery. This process informs the Strategic Plan and directs the targeting of services.
The service model is aimed at meeting the needs of clients with complex needs and/or multiple legal problems. It is multi-disciplined, works effectively with disadvantaged communities, targets services to emerging need, and is flexible and responsive.
The model allows centres to identify common causes of people seeking assistance and then design service delivery in such a way as to reduce the need for assistance. This includes preventative strategies adopted by the community legal centres, such as community education projects
'that assist individuals or communities to identify legal problems at an early stage and, where possible, use their own advocacy skills to resolve those problems before they escalate or become intractable'.
About Community Legal Centres
Community legal centres (CLCs) in Australia are community-based not-for-profit organisations providing legal services to disadvantaged people and communities.
For over 30 years, community legal centres have worked to reduce legal disadvantage, increase the capacity of individuals and communities to understand their rights and obligations, and support their clients to have a greater say in the laws and policies that affect their lives.
'A rights-based, holistic, community development approach to legal service delivery means CLCs try and deal not just with the immediate legal problem of their clients, but with other broader social problems. CLCs understand the value of early intervention and prevention. They seek to educate the community about the law, and empower community members to avoid legal problems in the future'.
Community legal centres have consciously chosen to do this in a range of ways and using a number of strategies and approaches. At the root of their work are the concepts of justice, human rights, and community. These values affect not just the outcomes of CLC work but the processes they use. Where laws or policies clearly disadvantage particular groups, CLCs describe the problems to governments and corporations and offer fairer solutions.
Centres employ a wide variety of strategies to work towards the best outcomes for their clients and their communities. They employ both a human rights approach and a community development approach in their work.
A human rights approach to the law is one which respects the rights and dignity of every client, takes up matters involving breaches in human rights particularly of disadvantaged people, and advocates for improvements to the justice system based on the human rights framework.
A community development approach assumes that individuals are in the best position to know what their own issues and problems are and, properly informed or with support, how to resolve those issues. CLCs work to improve the legal knowledge and skills of their clients and communities so that fewer legal problems arise in the first place, and those that do can be resolved early. They do this work with their clients and their communities, from the grass-roots up. Community legal centres:
- initiate and provide community legal education and law reform projects that are preventative in outcome, consultative, and strengthen the community from within;
- produce plain English self-help legal resources;
- ensure community participation in the CLC through inclusive management and operational structures;
- collaborate and engage in strategic partnerships with community leaders, community organisations, Government agencies, and the private sector (particularly private law firms).
Community legal centres have been a vital component of the access to justice in Australia for over 30 years. There are more than 200 centres throughout the country.
The National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) was incorporated in 1990. It provides services to assist community legal centres to provide free legal assistance to disadvantaged clients and communities. It also develops and co-ordinates national community legal centre policies and acts as the national forum for legal centres.
In 2009, NACLC published a discussion paper showing how the work of community legal centres contributes to the delivery of broader government agendas such as social inclusion. NACLC argued that community legal centres have an important role to play in improving social inclusion. Building on their knowledge and experience derived from grass-roots involvement with the legal issues facing disadvantaged people, they are able to identify better ways government can and should achieve social inclusion goals. Community legal centres also ensure that the voices of their communities are heard.
NACLC linked the Australian government's social inclusion principles to those in the strategic service delivery model. NACLC notes how many of the principles for social inclusion overlap with those of community legal centres. For example, principle 7 is 'giving a high priority to early intervention and prevention'. Heading off problems by understanding the root causes and intervening early is a key objective of community legal centres.