Joining Up Justice: Reducing the referral roundabout

19 May 2021

8.5 million people in Australia have a legal problem each year and half don’t receive any help. Our new website Joining Up Justice reflects our direct consultation with hundreds of legal help-seekers, community legal centres, legal aid providers and referring agencies.

When a help-seeker makes an enquiry, service providers should aim to respond to it quickly and efficiently, clearly communicate available services, and if ineligible, provide a high quality referral to another service or pro bono support where possible.

But gathering all relevant information from a help-seeker without needing to make multiple requests for further details is a challenge. Organisations are often under-resourced, lacking centralised and integrated intake and triage systems and processes.

These common pain points contribute to why many people with legal problems struggle to receive consistent information or advice on whether they can be assisted, and end up in a ‘referral roundabout’.

What is a ‘referral roundabout’?

A referral roundabout happens when someone looks for help and gets passed from service to service until they end up where they started.

Research has shown that the help-seeker experience of understanding the law, identifying legal issues, and connecting with appropriate services (if available) is unacceptably poor. Many people with legal problems never identify that they have a problem or that help may be available, and many people who start looking for help enter a referral roundabout and give up.

To address this issue, we are focusing on building the capacity of legal organisations to understand and engage with technology that facilitate integrated interagency referrals. And this is why we have launched Joining Up Justice, a new interactive website summarising the shared experience of looking for and delivering legal help in Australia.

Joining Up Justice: An interactive website to improve the way our sector delivers legal services to help-seekers

Legal Help Journey Map: Follow the journey of a help-seeker attempting to get legal hep, and the organisation attempting to help

The Joining Up Justice website plots the various stages of the legal help-seeking journey from both the perspectives of a help-seeker and assisting legal organisation. Having a shared understanding of the complex and often challenging journey can help our sector seize opportunities for improvement, including using more supportive technology to deliver better services and outcomes.

Our key goal is to continue to enrich the website over time and use the website to advocate for change at both the organisational and ecosystem level. If you have any feedback on Joining Up Justice, you can share them here.

We would like to particularly acknowledge the Victorian Legal Services Board (VLSB) for funding this project, enabling us to improve the experience of searching for legal help for help-seekers.