Pro Bono Child Rights Centre - HINTALOVON

Pro Bono Child Rights Centre

Hintalovon Child Rights Foundation launched its Child Rights Centre legal aid service in 2017, and by now, it has grown to a 32-person counselling centre. Due to the increased customer demand and in order to increase efficiency, the service is undergoing major transformations in September 2019: a consultant chatbot and an online knowledge centre is being developed using artificial intelligence. The unique service will be available by early 2020.

The Child Rights Centre was launched in 2017 by Hintalovon Foundation to represent the interests of children in proceedings. The experts of the centre provide free child rights counselling and assistance to anyone who visits them. Regardless of the party asking for advice – father, mother, head of institution – the focus is always on the best interest of the child concerned, and never that of the person requesting help. This is the child rights-based approach and a holistic view, which not only address issues from a legal point of view but also take into consideration the child’s needs, and fill a gap in today's advisory scene as well as in public care. Legal aid has been running at full capacity almost since the date of its launch, even though the service was never particularly advertised.

”Since our launch, we have assisted in more than 700 cases. Some cases only require a single e-mail correspondence, while others need hundreds of work hours and active assistance; for example, our longest case has been going on for two years. We are in professional cooperation with almost all child protection organisations, from child welfare services to authorities. The centre is also supported by the pro bono work of large law firms such as Dentons, Lovells and DLA Piper. The incoming cases are of a wide variety: we encounter everything from school issues to domestic violence. Currently we have two full-time and 30 pro bono lawyers, but the waitlist is long: the waiting time is usually more than one month. Our colleagues are extremely overwhelmed with the current infrastructure, and it’s upsetting if we cannot react in time, but our resources are limited. We have reached the limits of our human and material resources, and that is why had to come up with a new strategy to move forward. This is how the idea of an online advisory centre and the need for chatbot arose”, as, head of the centre Nóra Sánta summed up the problem.

An online advisory centre is being established

The aim of the restructuring is to provide comprehensive nationwide assistance to children and thus to help even more children. Chatbot will not only offer accessible knowledge in problematic situations, but it will also provide instant help and up-to-date knowledge to child protection professionals and lawyers. The best interest of the children is also reflected in a key aspect of the development. There are a lot of issues requiring immediate action and information; thanks to the online service, these issues will not have to go on a waiting list, as the necessary information will be immediately available.

Can personal counselling be replaced by a chatbot?

This was the most important question we had to consider before the transformation. But the fact that we made the right choice was confirmed by the information revealed during the process of strategic planning, and by our technology experts as well: the 0-24 opening hours of the chatbot, the multiplier effect provided by technology, the instantly available help, the remarkably lower need for human resources, and the sustainable development costs convinced us that this is the way forward for the Child Rights Advisory Centre: and by extension, with this development we also aim at setting an example for the industry as well as creating a good practice in the field of child protection.”, explains  head of the Foundation Szilvia Gyurkó.

The chat will not use any popular public platforms; it will handle user data anonymously, and will not expose the name of users to any third party. The robot will be able to handle the questions in an intelligent way, thus even if someone inserts a free text instead of choosing from the predefined answers, the robot will detect the best answer to their question, and direct the user to the material and sources of information related to the topic.

The online centre is developed with the help of professional support by Dentons' international network, and we also received pro bono IT support. The chat was developed by our pro bono IT partner

In addition to the chatbot, users may also have access to various professional recommendations, forms, sample templates for appeals, and other professional documents for various case types  that may be necessary in child rights issues. Furthermore, case studies will be published regularly in the future as well.

As of 20 August, 2019, the Advisory Centre will no longer be available in its current form; personalised assistance will be restructured, and the help request form will be removed so that our specialists can focus on the development of new services. The planned launch date of the online advisory centre is spring 2020.