ContentJust Search pageLJF site navigationLeft navigation links
LJF Logo
Publications sectionJustice Awards sectionResearch sectionGrants sectionPlain language law sectionNetworks section
Just Search
 
Research Report: On the edge of justice: the legal needs of people with a mental illness
cover image

On the edge of justice: the legal needs of people with a mental illness  ( 2006 )  Cite this report



Print chapter
Search or view whole report
View PDF

Chapter 6. Non-legal support


    I’m not just an Aboriginal health worker; I am a social worker; I am a psychologist; housing officer, Centrelink officer, legal officer, core support, you name it. I am also a community development officer, a community capacity building officer, a prevention and promotions officer. You name the job, I am doing it.1

Data for this and other studies indicate that when people have a legal problem, they tend to turn to friends or family, social workers, health workers, church-based organisations and other non-legal service providers for information and advice.2 Consultations with service providers and participants for this study indicated that this was also often true for people with a mental illness.

    Oh, with the pension, with more like legal [problems] and … bureaucracy, I’d go and talk to my caseworker.3

    [If you did have a problem with housing, where could you go for help with that?] Initially I would talk to [my caseworker] about it, which I have done already. If that did not work I think I would have to go straight to Foster House and see someone there.4

    [If you did have a problem with your pension at work, where could you go for help?] First of all it all depends on what type of a problem it is. For some problems I would probably go to a social worker. Other problems, to the federal disability office centre.5

    [So you came to the [youth] centre when you got caught?] Yeah, that’s right. They can help you out here.6

People with a mental illness access a number of non-legal services, ranging from mental health workers, youth and social workers, financial counsellors, church groups, tenant advocates and other housing workers, to government departments (such as the NSW Police, Centrelink, DOH, the OPG and the OPC). People with a mental illness may access non-legal services for a variety of reasons, including mental health treatment, financial assistance, housing assistance, other welfare assistance and recreation. People may approach a service voluntarily or be referred by another service provider. Others may be involuntarily taken by the police to hospital for mental health assessment where they come into contact with other service providers (such as social workers). People with a mental illness may also turn to other support networks including their carers and family and friends for assistance with their legal problems.

Consultations for this study and other studies indicate, however, that some people with a mental illness do not access non-legal assistance. This can be due to a range of reasons, including a lack of awareness of services, a lack of available services and fear of stigma.7

The type of assistance provided by non-legal service providers to a client with a mental illness, who has a legal problem, will vary according to the role of the service, their level of resources, the client’s problem and the level of support required by that particular client.8

This chapter will look at the ways in which non-legal services assist people with a mental illness with their legal problems. This chapter will also look at the barriers that people with a mental illness face in accessing non-legal assistance and the support that non-legal service providers need to assist their clients with legal issues.



Consultation with Aboriginal mental health worker, Sydney, September 2004.
Interviews nos. 2, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 24 and 29 (interview no. 29 taken from the Foundations study into homeless people). See also Forell et al., No Home, No Justice?, p. 181, S Scott & C Sage, Gateways to the Law: An Exploratory Study of How Non-Profit Agencies Assist Clients with Legal Problems, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney, 2001, p. 30, Coumarelos et al., Justice Made to Measure. However, it should be noted that participants interviewed for this study were contacted through non-legal agencies and were therefore already in touch with them.
Interview no. 14.
Interview no. 24.
Interview no. 9.
Interview no. 14.
Consultations with CLC workers, Shopfront, September 2004, barrister, Sydney, January 2005, national program manager, MMHA, July 2004, also roundtable consultation, 16 June 2004. See also G Kamieniecki, Prevalence of Psychological Distress and Psychiatric Disorders among Homeless Youth in Australia: A Comparative Review, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 35, no. 352, 2001, L Cullen, Out of the Picture, Szirom et al., Barriers to Service Provision For Young People, HREOC, Human Rights and Mental Illness, pp. 73040, Nicholson et al., Critical Issues For Parents With Mental Illness and Their Families, p. 15.
Some non-legal services do not see assistance with legal issues as part of their role, while at the other end of the spectrum the OPC and tenancy workers have specialised workers who will advocate on behalf of a client at the CTTT.

 Consultation with Aboriginal mental health worker, Sydney, September 2004.
 Interviews nos. 2, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 24 and 29 (interview no. 29 taken from the Foundations study into homeless people). See also Forell et al., No Home, No Justice?, p. 181, S Scott & C Sage, Gateways to the Law: An Exploratory Study of How Non-Profit Agencies Assist Clients with Legal Problems, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney, 2001, p. 30, Coumarelos et al., Justice Made to Measure. However, it should be noted that participants interviewed for this study were contacted through non-legal agencies and were therefore already in touch with them.
 Interview no. 14.
 Interview no. 24.
 Interview no. 9.
 Interview no. 14.
 Consultations with CLC workers, Shopfront, September 2004, barrister, Sydney, January 2005, national program manager, MMHA, July 2004, also roundtable consultation, 16 June 2004. See also G Kamieniecki, Prevalence of Psychological Distress and Psychiatric Disorders among Homeless Youth in Australia: A Comparative Review, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 35, no. 352, 2001, L Cullen, Out of the Picture, Szirom et al., Barriers to Service Provision For Young People, HREOC, Human Rights and Mental Illness, pp. 73040, Nicholson et al., Critical Issues For Parents With Mental Illness and Their Families, p. 15.
 Some non-legal services do not see assistance with legal issues as part of their role, while at the other end of the spectrum the OPC and tenancy workers have specialised workers who will advocate on behalf of a client at the CTTT.


CLOSE
Karras, M, McCarron, E, Gray, A & Ardasinski, S 2006, On the edge of justice: the legal needs of people with a mental illness in NSW, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney