If you are a community health worker concerned about an older client who is being abused or exploited financially by someone close to them, there may be a seniors legal clinic right on your doorstep that can help.
Caseworkers at Western Region Health Centre have been making good use of the Seniors Rights clinic at WRHC’s Nicholson St premises in Footscray, according to Matthew Bridges, a lawyer at the clinic. Many of his clients have been referred into the service by Health Centre workers, although older people from the local area also visit the service without prior referral. Other agencies in Footscray have begun referring their clients to the legal clinic as well.
The Footscray clinic is one of four Seniors Rights Victoria legal clinics located within community health services in the Melbourne suburbs – the others are at the Doutta Galla Community Health Centre (Niddrie), Bundoora Extended Care Centre, and Caulfield Hospital Memory Clinic. These free seniors legal clinics are staffed by lawyers from city firms which provide their staff ‘pro bono’ – as a community service. The clinics are run by the Public Interest Law Clearing House (PILCH), one of Seniors Rights’ joint venture partners.
Clinics’ work helping to prevent elder abuse
Assisting older people who are experiencing abuse is a focus of the Seniors Rights clinics. But they also deal with other legal issues – helping an older person organise their legal affairs can be an effective way of protecting them from abuse, and also, sometimes, of identifying and addressing issues that might otherwise go undetected. “The more questions you ask, the more you wonder about what’s really going on in that older person’s life or family,” says Matthew about the stories and issues that can emerge from a simple request for assistance in a dispute with a government department or service provider, or a request to prepare a power of attorney.
Being able to access a legal service from within a health service can help health workers and case managers provide their clients with a more holistic service, and allows for an integrated response to the client’s needs. It can also help in unexpected ways: “Our experience has been that the case managers have welcomed our involvement here and have been enthusiastic supporters of the clinic,” says Matthew. “We’ve found that having a lawyer involved has sometimes made things happen, or made other services respond, more quickly than they may otherwise have done.”
Seniors Rights Legal Clinics hours and contact nos:
Bundoora Extended Care Centre, 9.15–11.30 am on alternate Mondays
94095 3102 for appointments
Caulfield Hospital Memory Clinic, 9.15–11.30 am on alternate Tuesdays
8636 4416 for appointments
Western Region Health Centre, 10 am–12.15 pm on alternate Wednesdays
9362 8181 for appointments
Doutta Galla Community Health Service, 9.15–11.30 am on alternate Tuesdays
8378 3500 for appointments
Seniors Rights Helpline, 1300 368 821, 10 am – 5 pm, Mon- Fri. This is a statewide service.