Integrating service for multi-disciplinary effect

Around 15 treatment and support services operate at the Neighbourhood Justice Centre under the banner of Client Services.

Client Services provide clients of the Centre's court and residents of the Centre's jurisdiction with on-site services, and referrals to, victims’ support, mediation, mental health assistance, drug and alcohol treatment, counselling, employment, financial and housing support, and specialised Koori services, and migrant and refugee support. 

As well as supporting people attending the Centre's court, Client Services works towards improving the quality of life for vulnerable communities by addressing barriers to mainstream life.

Operational model

Client Services operates under the Embedded Specialist Service Model (ESSM).

This ESSM comprises service providers employed directly by the NJC, and those engaged through contractual arrangements with external agencies who locate staff at the Centre.

The latter have a dual-line management structure whereby the NJC provides operational management while their organisation of origin delivers professional development, supervision and backfill.

Service providers engage in a quarterly review process with the NJC to assess, address and amend service delivery as required. 

This model benefits clients as it provides direct point of referral to the contracted agency via the NJC’s intake, assessment and triage process. Clients are seen at the Centre, or at the service’s primary location, in which case subsequent intake, assessments and waiting lists are bypassed.

If there is a delay in a client accessing a service that is not offered by the Centre, Client Service provides case management for as long as needed.   

As the model networks the NJC to service providers across its jurisdiction, the Centre draws on the network of resources that contracted agencies also possesses in the community. 

In all, the ESSM is greater than the sum of its parts and significantly different to any other client services model in the Australia’s justice system.

Multi-disciplinary care

The treatment and supports services offered by Client Services do not come with time limits, and can be accessed at any time from pre-to post sentence—our preference is to get clients engaged as early as possible.  

A referral to one member of the Client Service is a gateway to all services, and as most clients have multiple needs, agencies work in multi-disciplinary teams to manage clients together. This enables agencies to:

  • reduce the number of meeting that clients need to attend
  • develop and manage highly integrated treatment plans
  • coauthor court reports and other administrative duties

Along with operational efficiency, this model reduces the stress of a single worker having carriage of complex case files, and supports the production of rapid referrals to external agencies when priorities demand.

External agencies also feed back client information (reports) to Client Services, which can inform case management processes, Judicial Monitoring and court decision-making.

Strong partnerships with external agencies underpin the Centre’s record for reducing delays in access to services.


Our Client Services model has been subject to independent evaluations into its impact on re-offending rates[1] and its cost effectiveness[2].

It was found that in excess of 80% of referred clients engages rate with Client Services. (The number of mainstream treatment programs operating in Victoria is significantly lower)

The re-offending rates of Client Service clients was also found to be significantly lower than matched cohorts and lower than those reported by in mainstream court treatment programs[3].

While community justice has historically been implemented in areas with high volume of low tariff offending, the NJC’s cohort is disproportionately composed of high risk offenders[4] being twice that of the state wide average of community correctional sites.

High levels of NJC clients sentenced to Community Corrections Orders managed at the Centre have been engaged with the Client Services pre-sentence and as such are engaged with services/supports at the point of transition to Corrections Victoria.

Breach rates of NJC clients are significantly lower than the state-wide average with the greatest differences being evident in the moderate and high risk offending cohorts[5].

Benefits of integrated treatment services

  • Reduces barriers to accessing community treatment services as Client Services act as entry point into their ‘home’ agency
  • Increased engagement with treatment as services are based on site and respond quickly to a client’s needs.
  • Increases access to treatment
  • Increases person’s motivation to make positive changes 
  • Treatment can begin prior to a client attending court.

Field notes


"Before joining the NJC, I’d been frustrated by how long it took me to refer clients to other services. Delays often led to my clients’ problems escalating and they missed opportunities to progress.


It was trying for all of us, not least because I was working with vulnerable people who trusted me to support them to move forward with their lives.


When I started here I remember the speed and ease of the assessment and referral process amazed me. Here’s just one example:


The financial counsellor referred a client to me. I saw him a short time later and we identified a training course to enhance his employment prospects.


The court Registrar certified the required documents and statutory declarations, and we got the client enrolled in the course.


On top of this, my client disclosed mental health issues so I referred him to the psychologist for assessment, who saw him next. The Salvation Army officer also supported him with material aid.


My client has recently secured full time work. Without this level of timely interventions the outcome may well have been different.


For me NJC’s ‘one-stop-shop’ supports people to move forward with their lives, and it’s extremely gratifying to see the relief on clients’ faces when they their issues are being taken seriously and responded to promptly".


NJC-based case worker, Client Services team



    [1] Ross, S., Australian Institute of Criminology, Evaluating neighbourhood justice: Measuring and attributing outcomes for a community justice program, 2015, p.5

    [2] Morgan, A., Brown, R., Australian Institute of Criminology, Estimating The Costs Associated With Community Justice, 2015

    [3] Ross, S., ibid., p. 5

    [4] Ross, S., ibid., p. 5

    [5] Ross, S., ibid., p. 5




    Artwork: Local Heroes series, Workshops facilitated by Dan Twomey. Artists (from left to right) Abi Quin, Ella, Wes, Eloise