Historically women’s family violence outreach services have been funded to provide case management support to women and child protection services have focused on protecting children. This model tended to ignore the reality that assaults against children largely occur in the context of family violence, where women have limited ability to protect their children. Increasingly, children’s rights advocates stress the need for children to have individualised case management services complemented by services that strengthen women’s ability to protect their children.
While WHW are not funded to provide case management support to children, we do include children within a family case plan, including work with schools, supporting children to access counselling services and liaising with child protection. However, we were keen to explore how we could enhance our focus on children.
In a 6 month pilot program WHW employed a children’s case worker for 3 days a week to tackle areas of concern specific to children, including the negative consequences of family violence on the mother-child bond. While other case workers benefited from this pilot it is clear that an ongoing specialist children’s worker would be invaluable.
Article printed on 23 October 2012 in Maribyrnong Weekly
THE task of reducing family violence in Melbourne’s west has received the welcome boost of a $600,000 state government grant.
Women’s Health West (WHW) will use the funding to roll out a United: Working Together to Prevent Violence Against Women in the West program to tackle factors causing men to commit violence against women.
The program will build on partnerships with local government, ISIS Primary Care, Djerriwarrh Community Health Service, Western Region Health Centre, and Doutta Galla Community Health Service.
Women’s Health West welcomes the release of Victoria’s Action Plan to Address Violence Against Women and Children
This plan correctly places equal weight on preventing violence from happening, holding perpetrators to account, and supporting women and children who experience violence.
The whole-of-government commitment outlined in the plan, coupled with shared community responsibility, is essential for achieving the vision for women and children to live free from violence in Victoria.
Key aspects include getting tougher on perpetrators and preventing re-offending, along with engaging organisations and communities to promote gender equity and stop violence. It is the mutually reinforcing nature of the actions outlined that will have the greatest impact.
5 October 2012: ‘This plan correctly places equal weight on preventing violence from happening, holding perpetrators to account, and supporting women and children who experience violence’, WHAV Convenor Dr Robyn Gregory said.
‘The whole-of-government commitment outlined in the plan, coupled with shared community responsibility, is essential for achieving the vision for women and children to live free from violence in Victoria.’
Victoria Police crime statistics released on 3 September showed a 23 per cent increase in the rate of family violence incident reports since the previous year and a 45 per cent increase in the number of charges laid.
The second edition of the Victoria Police Code of Practice for the Investigation of Family Violence was launched in December 2010. This renewed commitment to improving police responses to family violence is partly responsible for the increase in demand. More calls to police may mean the messages are getting through: violence against women and children is unacceptable and your call will be taken seriously.
However, the magnitude of the increase has a direct impact on Women’s Health West’s capacity to respond. Crisis referrals to WHW increased by 26 per cent from the previous year. This is a combination of increased police referrals and women seeking services directly. Such a dramatic increase was difficult to manage and forced us to redirect funds away from case management to our intake service. This shift of resources toward a crisis approach impacts directly on our ability to assist women and children to navigate the complex legal and other service systems that provide security and aid healing and recovery.
As a result, WHW welcomed the recent Victorian Government announcement of $16 million over four years to respond to the increased demand for family violence services. This will alleviate some of the immediate pressure.
The funding includes $9.25 million for an additional 1,200 support packages for women and children per year over the next four years. Women’s Health West is one of five metropolitan and eight rural family violence outreach services facing similar exponential increases in demand. Across Victoria, family violence incidents rose by 10,000 last year. Domestic Violence Victoria, the peak body for family violence services in Victoria, has described the funding as a ‘down payment’ and is clear that future funding commitments are required to respond to continual increases in demand.