Part II, Section III: Advancing from Discrete Changes to the Holistic Approach

Part II, Section III: Advancing from Discrete Changes to the Holistic Approach2017-03-03T18:33:20+00:00

A.      Introduction

In the previous chapter, we referred to changes in accessing the family justice system that we believe might assist users who cannot afford a lawyer, who are not prepared for one reason or another to access the court system and who need help in using self-help materials. These changes focus on the role of community-based trusted intermediaries to assist those users of the family legal system who may need help for reasons of literacy, language, culture or lack of economic resources; easier access to information; improved access to self-help tools; properly regulated representation by lawyers trained to deliver less than full service; and service by legally trained persons other than lawyers. In this Chapter, we suggest that while these changes in and of themselves may improve access to the family justice system, delivering them in an integrated manner, linked to more advanced services, may help a person facing family difficulties move more effectively through to a resolution of their problems, to the benefit of both users and the system.

People in the midst of relationship breakdown face a number of challenges some of which are legal problems but many of which are not. Although a number of stakeholders in the family justice system appreciate that family breakdown gives rise to social and economic issues as well as legal issues, there have been limited efforts to date to provide integrated services. The result for many people is that they are required to devote a significant amount of time and energy, at a time of personal crisis, navigating a complex web of services. 

In some respects, this problem is analogous to the difficulties with the health care system. One commentator has written about the health care system, “without a clearly identified entry point, it’s much harder to co-ordinate efforts.”[406] He points out that “there is no place in the health care system where patients can routinely go to access the care they need promptly and efficiently and that tracks them throughout the health-care “journey.” The de facto entry point becomes the emergency room rather than a regular caregiver (family doctor). There is no real gatekeeper for expensive services and little continuity in care. He further points out that interdisciplinary teams, which includes nurses, pharmacists and other health professionals (but not necessarily doctors) could provide continuity. [407] We discuss the interdisciplinary approach developing in health care below. 

We believe that a similar interdisciplinary approach would be equally beneficial in dealing with family justice problems. Comprehensive or integrated entry points, “multidisciplinary, multifunction centres”, would offer information, counseling and services such as legal advice and assistance that would allow an individual to move smoothly through to a resolution of their matters whether through alternative dispute resolution (which could be provided on site) or, as appropriate, the courts. The primary purpose of the centres would be to improve access for those who cannot afford a lawyer; however, the implementation could be linked with private delivery to provide delivery on a cost basis, as private practitioners now might refer their clients to other services.

As we discuss below, these multidisciplinary, multifunction centres do not need to take a particular form in order to provide the services required to create effective entry points. Adherence to a particular form may not be practical for economic and other resource reasons and it also may not be optimal for all parts of the province. We discuss several models below. What needs to be common to them all, however, is that this single entry or access point provides a wide range of legal and non-legal services (or easy access to the latter), provides a seamless path for users through the system that is responsive to their needs and allows flexibility as users wind their way through the system. 

While collaboration is essential given that the responsibility for service delivery is diffuse among many stakeholders, it can take a variety of forms:

In the literature on human services organizations and inter-organisational relations, collaboration [means]…the formal joining of structures and processes between organizations. It is part of a spectrum ranging from the informal to the formal, beginning with cooperation (as an informal information exchange), through coordination (as in development of formal protocols) and ultimately, integration, which involves the formation of new organizational structures….[408]

Family breakdown is a multi-faceted problem, the most effective resolution of which is multi-pronged possible involving a number of organizations and service providers. All major stakeholders in the family justice system agree that early intervention and a timely resolution of disputes are better for families. Generally speaking, and where appropriate, negotiated resolution is more likely to be longer-lasting and satisfactory than one that is imposed, sometimes on a party who feel aggrieved by the result. A negotiated resolution may not be appropriate in some cases and this is accounted for by the system at the early stage, as we discuss in Part One. We believe, however, that integrated access to the system can contribute to more effective resolution at later stages. At present, there is no clear entry point into the family justice system which provides an integrated response. We believe that in the longer term, investments in an integrated access point can make the family justice system more responsive and efficient by reducing the pressures on persons in a family dispute and on the family justice system. We also believe that holistic approaches provide a more sustainable outcome which reduces the pressure on the system arising from families continuing to come to the courts as their needs and circumstances change. As Julie MacFarlane has noted, 

In the family area, family clients can benefit from the combined expertise of lawyers, therapists, child and family counselors, child welfare specialists and financial planners.  In each case the added value for clients who can afford a range of integrated services is that they are able to build comprehensive, long-term solutions to planning for uncertainties, crises, or conflicts instead of purchasing piecemeal advice, which may overlook opportunities for creative solutions or which may ultimately conflict or collide with advice from other professional consultants.[409] 

We appreciate that not everyone agrees with our recommendation for the integrated access point, partly because there is an assumption that it will be costly, but also, more substantively, it is believed that the goals of the integrated access point are already being met. For example, the Advocates’ Society suggested, in response to our Interim Report, that

Many of the objectives of the proposed “multi-disciplinary multi-functional” centre are already being implemented through the existing FLIC/IRC/MIP model. Expanded support and funding for the existing infrastructure is a more efficient and streamlined strategy than creating a new model of service delivery.

While we agree that the court based services referred to by the Advocates’ Society are beneficial, they do not address the issues we have identified throughout this Report, namely that there has been no systemic approach to addressing diversity; that the existing combination of Family Law Information Centres, with Information and Referral Coordinators and Advice Lawyers, and the Mandatory Information Program does not providesufficient affordable legal services; and while the IRCs are tasked with making referrals, they are in no position to provide a holistic response to all of the issues arising from family breakdown. Furthermore, although these services are not dependent on the individual’s having decided to make an application to the court, they are significantly linked to the courts. This is one of their advantages, but it also means that those at the earliest stage of thinking about their dispute or who for whatever reason are reluctant to enter the court system are less likely to receive help. 

The submission we received from the Ontario Collaborative Law Federation, supported the concept of providing interdisciplinary resources outside of the court system:

We agree that the resources for families (entry points) should not be tied to the court system and in particular parties should not have to start litigation to avail themselves of these resources. It is interesting to note that your interim report supports the need for families to be able to access mental health (family) professionals and neutral financial professionals as well as lawyers. This inter-disciplinary team approach is unique to the collaborative process.

A mental health or “family” professional (acting as a collaboratively-trained coach or a neutral facilitator or child expert is able to assist lawyers in screening for any power imbalances, personality issues or significant communication challenges. They often work with clients outside meetings to help address non-legal issues and to develop parenting plans. Collaborative professionals work together, not at cross purposes, and keep each other informed…Family law clients often need assistance with emotional and/or financial issues. Providing clients with the particular expertise they need helps expedite the time required to address their legal issues.

 

B.      Lessons from the Health Care Sector

Our health care system has been grappling with issues around lack of coordination in service delivery for a number of years and has identified “interprofessional care” as a model for effective patient-centred health care:

The envisioned system would involve and be representative of the individuals and communities served. It would integrate a continuum of services encompassing health promotion disease prevention, wellness and health maintenance into community based, facility based and specialized institutional forms of care.

It would foster collaboration between professionals and communities as well as between health and other sectors
.[410]

As with family law, where a large number of people do not have the assistance of a lawyer, in regard to health care, a growing number of people lacked access to a primary care physician. By 2005, 1.2 million Ontarians were without a family doctor.[411] A decade earlier, discussion about integrated medical delivery systems portrayed them as the way to respond to “fragmented decision making, with its attendant inefficiencies in meeting patient needs, managing and policy making” resulting from the organization of the health care system.[412] Integrated models may not cut across different specialties; however, the authors suggest that 

“vertically integrated” systems appear to offer greater potential for success. These systems provide a broad range of services; clients can move quickly through the continuum of care. The most successful systems are those integrated in a local community to provide services for a specific population.[413] 

Also similar to the legal profession, the medical profession as it existed did not initially widely support interprofessional collaborations. Jacobs and Jacobs note that the Ontario Medical Association originally opposed community health centres “on the grounds that they involved a practice of medicine that threatened the doctor-patient relationship both with regard to patient confidentiality and payment for service.”[414] On the other hand, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario stated a decade ago that “in order to better meet patient needs, health care has evolved such that delivery of care no longer takes place through exclusive domains of practice but through multidisciplinary teams”.[415] Other medical practitioners, such as the College of Midwives, are also committed to interprofessional care.[416] 

The federal, provincial and territorial governments identified the development of interprofessional care as a priority for the renewal of the health care system in the 2003 and 2004 Health Accords.[417] A summit was held in 2006 to identify the priorities for advancing interprofessional care in Ontario.[418] The Ministry of Health and Long Term Care and the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities established an Interprofessional Care Steering Committee comprised of experts in the fields of policy, education, regulation and organizational structures who had played important roles to date in the development of interprofessional education and care. The Committee’s mandate was to develop a Blueprint for Action to Advancing Interprofessional Care and it developed the following four recommendations to provide an effective framework for implementing interprofessional care:

  • Building the foundation: The building process begins with the education system, which needs to prepare current and future caregivers to work within interprofessional care models.  This is to include curriculum development, training and professional development programs.
  • Sharing the responsibility: This involves reviewing standards of practice with a view to integrating interprofessional collaborative, team-based care approaches.
  • Implementing systemic enablers: Legislation and liability coverage for all health care providers should be reviewed with a view to defining professional responsibility and accountability within team-based structures.
  • Leading sustainable cultural change: Requires leadership to integrate interprofessional care into existing strategies and to create incentives for the adoption of interprofessional care.[419]

The Blueprint for Action recommended concrete actions for the implementation of this framework. Notably, the Blueprint does not promote a specific model of interprofessional care.  Rather, interprofessional care is an approach to delivering services. The recommendations contained in the Blueprint represent systemic changes to the health sector. It was designed to be a springboard for a variety of stakeholders, including individual organizations, healthcare workers educators patients and families to incorporate interprofessional care and education efforts in their workplaces and educational institutions.

Following the release of the Blueprint, the Minister of Health and Long Term Care approached the Health Professions Regulatory Advisory Council (the Council), an independent agency which provides advice on matters related to the regulation of health professionals in Ontario to recommend mechanisms to facilitate and support interprofessional collaboration. This resulted in changes to the Regulated Health Professions Act, including the following:

  • expanding scopes of practice to 12 professions;
  • requiring the health colleges to work together to develop common standards of knowledge, skill, and judgment in areas where their professions may provide the same or similar services; and
  • making team based care a key component of health college quality assurance programs to ensure the ongoing competence of registered health professionals.[420]

Following extensive stakeholder consultations over a period of two years, the Interprofessional Care Strategic Implementation Committee produced a report that “provides an overview of interprofessional education models, concepts and resources to guide the implementation of IPC in various settings”.[421] The Implementation Committee established the Interprofessional Education Curriculum Working group which prepared a guide for teaching interprofessional competencies in colleges and universities. The Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities and the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care provided financial support to six Ontario Academic Health Science Centres to assist in the development of interprofessional education.[422] The Implementation Committee established a Core Competency Working Group to develop the competencies and values needed for all health care givers to teach and practice interprofessional care. The working group developed these competencies after extensive stakeholder consultation. It also developed a Charter which is intended to “support a multi-level strategy for collective leadership, initiating dialogue and facilitating empowerment and accountability within and across the health care system….”[423]

In order to make Interprofessional Care actionable and sustainable, the Implementation Committee developed a dissemination strategy to advance interprofessional education and to provide incentives to use the materials developed and support the application of the tools. It also recommended leveraging Ontario’s Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) structure as a springboard to launch Interprofessional care.[424]

We note that the interprofessional health care approach relates (at least primarily) to health care providers, but also includes professions such as social workers and dieticians. Other developments arising from this initiative include the Regulated Health Professions Statute Law Amendment Act, 2009 which extended the scope of practice of certain professions, such as pharmacists.[425] Other related activities have included a summit attended by “80 leaders and decision-makers in the education and collaborative practice sectors of Ontario’s health human workforce” with the objectives of 

build[ing] on current best practices and utiliz[ing] the experiences and expertise of IPE/IPC leaders and decision-makers within the health, academic and education sectors, as well as government across Ontario in order to identify key priorities for health and education system changes that will further enhance and sustain the integration of IPE/IPC initiatives.[426]

We recognize that the analogy of the family justice system with the health care system is not perfect. Health care is considered and is for the most part a publicly funded system, although patients may pay a fee for certain services and must pay for others themselves or through additional health plans. Certain health services (such as dental care) are provided privately. Nevertheless, most services required by most people are funded publicly and there is a closer relationship between service providers and the government and a greater need to work together with the government to provide solutions. The fact that health care is publicly funded and operated also facilitates the logistics of implementation. As noted above, the LHINs offer a platform for the development of interprofessional care models. 

By comparison, the provision of legal services for the most part remains a private enterprise and the ability of government to influence policy decisions around practice is more limited. Yet much of the family justice system is also publicly funded: the provision of information, the courts, some mediation and the provision of legal services under some circumstances.

Furthermore, the commitment of the public to health care is greater as health care is viewed as an essential service and the relationship of the primary service provider to patient is intended to be long term. The need for family justice services, although high, is by no means universal and the need for them is not usually life-long.

The interprofessional health care project is meant to address the health care system writ large, while in this project we have focused only on the family law system, and only part of that, access or entry points. The health care project is also more ambitious than our proposal, since it encompasses education, based on the assumption that to function differently, professionals must be trained differently. We are not suggesting that our holistic approach incorporate collaborative education; however, there may well be lessons learned from health care in this regard that could be explored should the occasion arise in the future. Changes in legal education practice could be an exciting and revolutionary contribution to a new way of offering legal services.

We also want to be clear that our proposal for an integrated approach to accessing family justice includes other professions who work is not necessarily related to the legal system, as well as a range of legal actors; indeed, this is a major reason for our proposal. This is less the case with the health care project, although it includes a wide range of professionals directly responsible for health care.

Perhaps the most critical difference, however, is that the principal players in the justice system are largely independent of one another which will make the development and implementation of these centres more difficult. Although there is confidentiality in the doctor-patient relationship, solicitor-client privilege has few exceptions. More significantly, it has been said that the constitutional principle of judicial independence and lawyers’ “professional autonomy”, and the independence of “the Law Society of Upper Canada, university-based law schools, community legal clinics and [Legal Aid Ontario] itself…as well as the provincial and federal governments”, “allows each of them, to a greater or lesser extent, to avoid shouldering responsibility for reforming the system.[427] Change requires, just as in the health care sector, the willingness of all entities to work together, something that each has recognized at different times.

Of interest are partnerships or collaboration between the legal and health care professions. In British Columbia, for example, the assumption underlying a planned program, RICHER, is the opposite to the assumption underlying our recommendation for integrated centres, that legal problems may also reflect other kinds of problems. RICHER recognizes that health problems may have a legal component or legal consequences.[428] Pro Bono Law Ontario runs two programs (at Sick Kids in Toronto and at Children’s Hospital at London’s Health Sciences Centre) that help low income families address legal problems that may interfere with their care for their child.[429] 

Notwithstanding the differences between health care and family justice, the process by which the concept of interprofessional care evolved from an academic idea to a policy imperative for the provincial government and finally its implementation across the province is a useful example of how stakeholders who support the idea of multidisciplinary centres for family justice clients can approach their development. Furthermore, many of the services which would be found in a mult-disciplinary centre are already being provided by a variety of service providers across the province. Some of these services are government funded and operated and some of them are delivered by not for profit organizations, as we explain below.

 

C.      Examples of Multidisciplinary, Multifunction Services in the Legal System

There are a number of organizations that could be involved in a variety of ways to create a model of service delivery that makes sense for the geographical location as well as the community it is meant to serve. While in some cases this could mean, if and when resources are available, a fully government funded, government operated facility, in other cases, the resources already being delivered by a variety of organizations could be leveraged to create a cohesive entry point. We reiterate that comprehensive multidisciplinary, multifunction services, although intended to provide similar integrated services,[430] do not need to assume the same form in each case. 

Comprehensive services can be delivered at a physical location, virtually or in combination. Different parts of the province may benefit from different arrangements. What needs to be common to them all, however, is that this single entry point provides a wide range of legal and non-legal services (or easy and systematic access to the latter), provides a seamless path for users of the system through the system that is responsive to their needs and allows flexibility as users wind their way through the system. 

Below we examine a number of different models of providing multiple services to clients.  These range from a consortium of service providers working together for a common purpose to a co-location/integration model of different stakeholders to a government funded government run centre. Some of them deliver family law services and others are geared to different areas of law. All of them contemplate the development of partnerships and collaboration between service providers to varying degrees. We believe that all these models could be used in the family law area, as appropriate, given available funding, geographic location and other factors. To be effective, they also need to be developed in a systematic, rather than ad hoc, way, and linked to other parts of the system.

 

1.      A Consortium of Service Providers

A consortium model envisions a group of local legal and non-legal organizations and provincial bodies working together to develop a coherent service delivery system for clients. This model does not assume an actual co-location of services, rather, the services are coordinated at a centralized hub for assessment information and referral activities. The Ottawa region is currently piloting this model[431] with funding from the Law Foundation of Ontario. Over 30 agencies are working together, with the South Ottawa Community Legal Services as the lead agency. The goal of this consortium is to provide integrated legal and non-legal services to Ottawa’s linguistic minorities. The purposes include 

build[ing] capacity within the community health and social services sectors to identify legal issues and provide basic legal information and timely referral for persons who speak neither English nor French and for persons who have a significant communication difficulty as the result of a sensory impairment or a speech or language disorder and “promot[ing] collaboration among legal services and community health and social service organizations”.[432]

A consortium model is premised on the presence of several organizations in the community who are able to provide a variety of services. It is the least expensive of the models. The budget submitted for the Ottawa project was in the range of $280,000.00 annually.[433] 

 

2.      Different Service Providers under One Roof: Family Justice Centres

Family Justice Centers (FJCs) originated in San Diego, California in 2002 as a response to the needs of victims of domestic violence. Although numerous agencies and services responding to domestic violence already existed in San Diego, effectively navigating these services was tremendously difficult for traumatized victims.[434] Community advocates and service providers developed the idea to combine criminal/civil justice services with social service providers into a one-stop center where victims of domestic violence could be “wrapped” in services.[435] The San Diego Family Justice Center opened in October 2002, housing the Police Department’s Domestic Violence Unit, the City Attorney’s Domestic Violence Unit and staff from approximately 20 other non-profit community agencies.[436] Today, these services include legal advice, counseling, food, clothing, spiritual support, medical assistance and other services.[437]

There are three Family Justice Centres currently operating in Canada, all in Ontario: Kitchener (Family Violence Project of Waterloo Region),[438] Oshawa (Durham Region’s Intimate-Relationship Violence Empowerment Network – DRIVEN)[439] and Brampton (Safe Centre of Peel: Collaborative Assistance for Victims of Abuse and Violence).[440] These centres may offer different services, as well as services in common. For example, the Kitchener centre offers medical support for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. There are several agencies on site at DRIVEN, including the Durham Children’s Aid Society. The Peel centre offers immigration services and transportation.

The governing structure of individual FJCs varies from one government agency providing leadership for planning and implementation to the centre’s becoming a city department financed directly by government to a non-profit agency governed by an independent board of directors, the most common model chosen.[441] Some FJCs attempt to offer comprehensive services in one physical location while others operate more as a “service umbrella”, performing a triage function and referring clients to separate services either located onsite or elsewhere.

An example of this type of centre, the Peel Family Justice Centre, opened in October 2011 after a funding campaign spearheaded by Catholic Family Services Peel-Dufferin (CFSPD). CFSPD was interested in the FJC model and began to solicit funds for a building to house both an FJC as well as CFSPD’s head office. In spring 2010, the federal government committed $2.2 million from the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund to the building project. Financial support was also received from the Ontario government ($1,000,000), the Region of Peel ($500,000 interest-free loan) and a private fundraising campaign ($1,000,000).[442]

Shelina Jeshani, the former program manager responsible for planning and building support for the FJC, led a planning committee consisted of CFSPD and 15 other service providers.[443] Jeshani advised the LCO that the Family Justice Centre in Peel is not simply a co-location of service providers but an integrated service model. This means that there are common policies and protocols to which every service provider adheres. All service providers employ a common intake and triage tool and use the same risk assessment tool. 

In the Family Justice Centre model, each service provider is delivering the services within their own budgets. The Centre provides a place for the services to be delivered and the visioning and strategic planning process allowed these services for deeper integration and the use of common tools and processes. 

 

3.      Government Funded Centres

A network of Family Relationship Centres (FRCs) was introduced by the Australian government in 2005 as the centerpiece of a package of family law reforms designed in response to a House of Representatives Standing Committee report, Every Picture Tells a Story.[444] The family law reforms were intended to bring about a “cultural shift” in the management of parental separation “away from litigation and towards co-operative parenting”.[445]

The FRCs provide a single entry point to the family law system outside the courts, intended to provide supports to those in developing relationships and difficult relationships, as well as parents who are separating. They offer information, case assessment, screening, referrals, and practical advice and assistance to separating parents developing parenting plans. Dispute resolution services are available onsite and referrals to other mediation, counselling and specialist services are also available. These services can be delivered in three formats: at a Family Relationship Centre (65 are located throughout the country), over the telephone or through a web-based repository of information and support for those unable to access a FRC.[446]

In its 2005-2006 Budget, the Australian government allocated $188.5 (AUD) million over four years to establish the FRCs.[447] The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, responsible for administration of the program, contracts out the operation of FRCs to not-for-profit community-based service providers, similar to the contracting out by the Ontario government in relation to Family Court Support Workers and other family law programs. The FRCs employ a variety of service delivery models depending on their operator and geographic location. For example, some FRCs have been funded to provide Indigenous outreach services. These centres engage advisors to assist in service delivery. However, apparently it can be a challenge to find staff members with suitable qualifications.[448] 

A primary function of FRCs is to help separating parents reach parenting agreements through a family dispute resolution process.[449] Under Australian law, dispute resolution must take place before parties may seek a parenting order from the court. Parents first go through an intake and assessment process before the dispute resolution process. 

FRCs also offer information, education programs, advice and referrals.[450] They are directed to develop cooperative arrangements with other service providers, including legal service providers as well as community organizations. FRCs are often co-located with other services such as Post Separation Cooperative Parenting (PSCP) established in October 2008.[451] It is intended that FRCs receive referrals from the Child Support Agency and that there will be linkages to income support specialists to determine how parenting arrangements will affect Centrelink entitlements. As a result of this emphasis on cooperation and referral, FRCs have been likened to “aircraft control centres”.[452]

Originally, FRCs did not provide legal services directly because they were intended to emphasize post-separation parenting as a relationship rather than a legal issue. Instead, FRCs encouraged clients to seek legal advice and provided referrals where appropriate. This is still largely the case. FRCs are encouraged to forge links with legal service providers. However, the 2009 evaluation of the FRC program carried out by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) revealed a considerable overlap between the use of family dispute resolution services and legal services.[453] It also indicated that, at least according to family lawyers, FRCs were not well integrated into the family law system. In June 2009, the Ministry of the Attorney General changed its policy and introduced the FRC Legal Assistance Partnerships Program to enable legal services to be provided as part of the FRC model. The Protocol developed leaves it up to individual FRCs to decide the role that legal services will play. However, according to an AIFS newsletter, services may include legal information sessions for parents, legal advice, assistance in drafting parenting plans and consent orders, lawyer-assisted family dispute resolution and training and mentoring.[454]

 

4.      Government Funded-Government Operated Centres: British Columbia Justice Access Centres

In 2005, the British Columbia Family Justice Reform Working Group delivered a report recommending the creation of family justice information hubs for people entering the family law system.[455] These hubs would build on the existing family justice centre model which had been in existence since 1992. They would serve as a clear entry point into the system and would provide information, assessment and referral, and would be located in various places, including, but not limited to, courthouses; services would also be available over the phone and by internet.

Emphasis was placed on integrated legal and non-legal services. The Family Justice Information Hubs would refer clients to other community service providers such as transition housing and victim service workers.[456] Resources were to be shifted from litigation and the courts to the “front end” of the system where consensual dispute resolution would be the norm (with litigation remaining an option where necessary). Governance would take place locally.[457]

Particular attention was paid to the needs of Aboriginal communities, both in ensuring access to services from remote reserve communities, and being respectful of cultural norms such as the role of the extended family when parents separate.[458] Immigrant women were also identified as requiring culturally appropriate services.[459]

In accordance with the New Justice System Report, in April 2007, the Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG) and the Legal Services Society (LSS) partnered to establish a new Family Justice Services Centre (FJSC) in Nanaimo, B.C., funded by MAG and LSS. The new Centre was situated at the existing FJC but it offered expanded services from both MAG and LSS.[460] MAG developed an expanded assessment and referral service with a needs assessment process covering five key areas (family violence, mental health and substance abuse issues, debt or financial issues, and child protection issues). LSS developed a staffed Resource Room and expanded its existing legal advice services. Community relationships with agencies such as the Nanaimo Violence against Women in Relationships Committee were reinforced. In 2007, the Nanaimo FJSC offered a full range of family justice services including screening and assessment, information counseling and courses, dispute resolution, Legal Aid intake, legal advice, child support assistance, legal information and resources.[461] A 2008 evaluation found that the Nanaimo FJSC was a success.[462]

In June 2007, the B.C. Legal Services Society produced a detailed planning document which set out a service vision and program design for a civil hub model, encompassing both family law and non-family law problems.[463] In October 2008, the Nanaimo FJSC was reestablished as the Nanaimo Justice Access Centre (JAC). Another JAC opened in July 2010 in the Vancouver Law Courts building and it was announced in September 2012 that a third JAC would open in Victoria in mid-2013.[464]

In her study of unrepresented litigants referred to above, Julie Macfarlane has included unrepresented litigants from British Columbia who have used the FJSCs which have been described as “essentially drop-in centres for people without lawyers. Staff circulate and guide people as they work on their cases at computers.”[465] Macfarlane is quoted as saying, “It sounds like a small thing, but actually, it’s a big difference…That’s the kind of support that people need.”

We suggest that while some of the above examples of multidisciplinary or comprehensive access points are more limited in coverage (to women experiencing domestic violence or in relation to parenting issues, for example) than our understanding for Ontario envisions or currently, at least, not realistic financially, they illustrate the range of forms multidisciplinary, multifunction services can assume.

 

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