In the context of delivering legal assistance services, monitoring refers to the collection of information about activity related to service delivery, and the results of that activity. This includes information on inputs such as number of staff and resources expended; outputs, such as counts of services delivered of different types and to different clients; and outcomes, such as legal and non-legal resolutions, client satisfaction and staff wellbeing.
Monitoring can provide regular information to assess progress in delivering against an operational strategy. This might include progress against a defined set of targets and performance indicators that are intended to represent strategic priorities.
In some circumstances monitoring can also provide information about changes in demand for services, although it is important to remember that in the context of limited resources and an operating environment where services are targeted at specific areas of law or client groups, the overall profile of services delivered will reflect in large part the nature and extent of what is actually offered and available to potential clients. Trends in services delivered should therefore be interpreted in the context of any changes to service provision.
Monitoring can also provide information about equity of service provision, where services delivered are compared to estimates of legal need. The Foundation’s former Data Dashboard Online and Victoria Legal Aid’s current Data Discovery Tool are examples of presenting data in this way.
Information on inputs and outputs can be collected in management information systems, with staff entering data on each client, each service provided and, where available, the outcomes achieved. This type of data can be aggregated to provide reports by, for instance:
More advanced reporting systems can support reporting by more than one of these factors at a time, to monitor, for instance, outcomes achieved by priority client type within a specific area of law. The quality and usefulness of this information will depend on good quality data entry.
Some aspects of service delivery require alternative methods of data collection. For example, client experience is best monitored through ad hoc surveys, and/or by mechanisms for ongoing feedback and routine capturing of complaints. Staff wellbeing can be monitored through surveys, appraisals, absenteeism, and staff turnover.
Evaluation and other methods of research can be used to inform what inputs, outputs and outcomes are measured through monitoring, and also how these can be measured appropriately and accurately.
Case studies are a useful method for sharing good practice as they bring together information on the purpose of a particular service program or model, how it is being delivered operationally, the impact it is having, as well as potentially describing any unintended consequences, lessons for improved performance and the cost and other resources required to deliver the program or model. Case studies provide examples of current service models and feedback on how services are being delivered. They can therefore be a useful method to monitor how an organisation’s resources are being deployed.
Another type of case study used in the sector describes an individual client story. These types of case study provide insights into range of issues presented by clients, the nature of the work undertaken by the service provider and give examples of the types of outcome that can be achieved for individuals. They are therefore particularly useful for media and advocacy related work.
Client surveys monitor the experience of a service from the perspective of the client. They give clients a voice in the design of legal assistance services providing the opportunity to develop the service offering to better meet the needs of clients and support them to achieve better outcomes. In our webinar we explain how to design a client survey to provide robust and relevant findings.
Administrative data about services delivered and clients supported is a valuable source of information. Tracking over time what, where, why, how and to whom services are delivered supports the monitoring of service delivery against business determined benchmarks. At an aggregate level this type of information can be used to demonstrate organisations are meeting the requirements of funders. Service data can also be used to monitor and inform specific aspects of service delivery, such as:
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