We designed and built an online tool and set of resources for community lawyers, to help people in acute healthcare settings get better justice outcomes.
Patients in mental health wards and similar institutions are some of the most vulnerable in our society: on top of their health issues they can have legal problems, including problems with accumulated fines that can have direct negative impacts on social and mental health outcomes.
Victorian law allows for people suffering from chronic mental health issues to have some fines removed under ‘special circumstances’ provisions, but the application process is confusing and onerous, even for lawyers experienced in these settings. At the time of our project, recent changes to the law meant that the process had become even more uncertain and complex.
The aim of this project was to help people suffering from special circumstances (such as chronic mental health issues, homelessness, or family violence) improve their chances of having their fines removed to assist with more rapid recovery.
Paper Giant worked with Victoria Legal Aid, community lawyers, and health practitioners, using human-centred design to discover, prototype and test innovative systems and service models.
Using qualitative research, we mapped the experience at multiple healthcare organisations where community lawyers were operating, and identified where we could make interventions - whether it was in conversation with a client, collecting medical evidence and records from doctors, or submitting evidence to enforcement agencies.
We then designed, developed and tested a digital tool, a set of education materials, and other templates to make the process easier for everyone.
We designed an intuitive and consistent tracking process for special circumstances applications, including a tool that allows lawyers to sort and filter the information about clients referred to them, and understand the size of the case before even meeting with the person. By connecting our tool directly to Fines Victoria (the government body that administers fines), we can now serve this information within seconds and in a format that lawyers can use.
We also designed a central location for newly designed templates and collateral that lawyers can use to gather evidence in the format most likely to generate successful applications.
Our work also has a systemic purpose, as it captures and anonymises key data points about cases. The data that is collected is accessible on a dashboard that Victoria Legal Aid can use to report and advocate for better services and legal support for people in difficult circumstances, and was designed specifically to aid with monitoring and evaluation of the pilot program.
StreamlineFines is currently running as a year-long pilot in three locations in Victoria, with more locations to be added as the program progresses.
– Joel Townsend
Program Manager, Economic and Social Rights, Victoria Legal Aid, Civil Justice Program
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Paper Giant acknowledges the Wurundjeri and Boonwurrung people of the Kulin nation, and the Ngunnawal people as the traditional owners of the lands on which our offices are located, and the traditional owners of country on which we meet and work throughout Australia. We recognise that sovereignty over the land has never been ceded, and pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging.