'Going deeper' - the Invisible Hurdles stage III research evaluation final report

Curran, L. ORCID: 0000-0002-6371-2975, 2022. 'Going deeper' - the Invisible Hurdles stage III research evaluation final report. Nottingham: Nottingham Law School, Nottingham Trent University.

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This is research into the Invisible Hurdles Program and its impact and effectiveness in delivering services to young people at risk of family violence. It involves four partners from different disciplines (health, education and family and community services and law) working holistically together to improve outcomes for young people who often have little voice. Its target is to reach young people who experience multiple, often cascading problems to see if legal help when easily accessed can make a difference in their lives.

The study evaluates the impact multidisciplinary program: the four partner agencies: the Hume Riverina Legal Service, Wodonga Flexible Learning Centre, Northeast Support and Action for Youth Inc., and Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service have all been keen to engage in reflective practice and learn how they can work together to provide holistic, client- centred and culturally respectful practice. The research also explores what works for young people and uses Dr Curran's benchmarks to measure impact including: engagement, capacity and capability, confidence, empowerment, collaboration and reach.

It seems fitting, to no longer describe the Invisible Hurdles initiative as a ‘project’, as it has now been operating since 2015. For this reason, in this report, the third research evaluation report for the program, entitled, ‘Going Deeper’ -The Invisible Hurdles Stage III Research and Evaluation Final Report (2022).

This has been a seven year study and is now one of the longest independent empirical studies into a legal assistance program in Australia. This report is the third report in seven years and has enabled some longer term comparisons as the program now can enable impacts over time to be measured, a rare thing in many service studies.

The connections between the Invisible Hurdles Program and the agencies are vital to the communities they serve. Without the program, many Aboriginal young people would experience reduced access to justice, the gaps would grow even wider, and many young people would continue to experience the complications of their ongoing, complex legal problems. This leads to poor social determinant of health outcomes, as evidenced in the data and case studies in this report. However, integrated and multidisciplinary practice when done well, can change lives and have a positive impact.

When applying the collaborative measurement tool, the evaluator found full integration by the Invisible Hurdles Program and the individual agencies. There is evidence of continuing collaboration despite some the setbacks of COVID-19 and in fact there has been a shift from collaboration to partnership on the measures for the benchmarks. The long-term nature of the program enabled it to use the trust and relationships already established to ride the COVID-19 storm and not only continue service but make necessary adaptations, innovate, and continuously reach young people and their supports. Many other agencies may also take some lessons from the elements discussed in this report, evidenced in the data that enabled the Invisible Hurdles Program to go from strength to strength and build responsive service delivery models. This was despite all the challenges presented to the partner agencies.

The legal and trusted intermediaries work seamlessly to identify and assist clients, referral pathways are clear and functional, and a high level of reflective practice is occurring. They demonstrated innovation, changed their practice and were flexible and available continuing to build relationships of trust and finding ‘work arounds’ when confronted with problems.

The evaluator commends the Invisible Hurdles model to other services hoping to find an effective model that could be replicated. However integrated service partnerships and multi-disciplinary practice is not easy, and relationships must be organic, have common values and shared focus. Dialogue and trust are key. The research participants also note part of the success of the Invisible Hurdles Program has not only been the nature of the service but its use of research to ensure all decisions and practice flow from a solid evidence base. Multiple participants told us that they could not imagine the service not being there – it is now so integrated it would do harm if it were pulled apart through a lack of or inadequate funding.

The report is detailed and explains the methodology, provides some of the data collected, the analysis, findings and recommendations that go beyond this specific program to shape and inform replicable models and that should be of value to funders and policy and decision-makers in service delivery across disciplines.

Item Type: Research report for external body
Creators: Curran, L.
Publisher: Nottingham Law School, Nottingham Trent University
Place of Publication: Nottingham
Date: 27 June 2022
ISBN: ‎9780646863276‎
Divisions: Schools > Nottingham Law School
Record created by: Jonathan Gallacher
Date Added: 04 Jul 2022 12:04
Last Modified: 04 Jul 2022 12:04
URI: https://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/46555

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