Alexis – Family Violence Response (A-FVRM) is an integrated Victoria Police/Social Services response to recidivist family violence piloted in the Melbourne LGAs of Glen Eira, Bayside and Kingston. This evaluation report details the model and provides an analysis of the program data. A-FVRM is a targeted approach to working with priority families. These families are identified as having three or more Police attendances for FV in the past 12 months or where an attending Police Member believes an incident of violence is such that the likelihood of further violence at that address is possible.
Results from the pilot have been impressive. A total of 111 families have been clients of A-FVRM. The program was designed to achieve a reduction in violence, represented by a reduction in Police callouts. To understand the sustainability or otherwise of the intervention, recidivism rates were measured once a client had been closed twelve months. 75 clients of A-FVRM have been closed for twelve months or more as of April 2017. The program provided data from the pilot reports an 85% reduction in recidivism for these clients (Average number of call-outs per client prior to A-FVRM involvement is 5.5 versus 0.8 12 months after the client file was closed). While this is pilot data, it provides evidence that the model is working for the intended target group.
The initial design brief of A-FVRM provided an outline for embedding a FV key worker (FVKW) within a Victoria Police FV unit and described the governance and social services - Victoria Police interface. However, the A-FVRM pilot has also included a number of important Victoria Police practice elements that are not captured in the initial model design, but which are likely to be important in the outcomes achieved. The evaluation has captured these practices which are discussed in detail below.
The program resulted in an 85% drop in recidivism in families within the program (Average number of L17s per client prior to A-FVRM involvement is 5.5 versus 0.8 12 months after the client file was closed)
The cohort of clients serviced by A-FVRM (households with 3 or more L17s in the previous 12 months) may represent a group that is not serviced well by the existing family violence service system because in many incidences, the idea of leaving the family home was not an option the Affected Family Member (AFM) was willing to consider.
For 27% of the A-FVRM families, the respondent was an adult (over 18) child of the AFM, living in the family home.
Policy and practice implications:
The pilot of A-FVRM represents an important progression in understanding how to work with vulnerable families. This includes ensuring a FVKW has oversight of the engagement with social services of the whole family (rather than specifically working with the AFM, the FVKW engages the respondent as well). The integration of the FVKW into the physical locality, as well as the day-to-day practice of the FV Police unit, provides the opportunity for learning to occur across both social work and policing practice cultures. The A-FVRM Coordination Team meetings with community services provide a level of case management oversight and coordination of community resources that facilitates, supports and hold all parties accountable (community services, Victoria Police, and clients engaged with social services).
A-FVRM suggests there is a current program gap in Victorian Family Violence service system response. Rather than the prevailing program logic designed to support an AFM in leaving and subsequently supporting them with post-separation issues (such as homelessness, legal and financial), the focus in A-FVRM was to stop the violence occurring within the family. This involved exploring the contributing factors to the violence (such as AOD, mental health, etc.), providing social services support to the AFM, children and respondent and where applicable remanding of a respondent.
A-FVRM has provided a number of insights into client characteristic that could be valuable in informing further theoretical and practice insights on differentiating practice models and approaches in working well with families where there is violence. The process of this evaluation has enable the FVKW and Victoria Police Members to reflect on A-FVRM families and established that there were three distinct client cohorts: Traditional FV, Adult Children and Complex Needs.
- Cohort one has been characterised as ‘Traditional FV’ - where a male respondent uses violence and aggression to threaten, intimidate and control his intimate partner and children.
- Cohort two are ‘Adult Children’ (over 18 years old) of the Affected Family Members - usually the parents and siblings.
- Cohort three is referred to as ‘Complex Needs’ which describes families where either the respondent, the Affected Family Member (AFM), or both, have presenting comorbidities of mental health support issues, alcohol and other drug use issues, homelessness, poverty and trauma based issues and/or chronic health conditions.
A-FVRM has developed differentiated policing and social services responses to these three cohorts that aim to reduce the incidence and severity of violence while connecting or reconnecting people to support services. While much of the current FV service system has been designed around supporting cohort one, ‘Traditional FV’, with FV Outreach Services, Refuges and Men’s Behaviour Change Programs, there has been a lack of a coordinated program response for the second and third cohorts. There is no designated program service response for cohort two, ‘Adult Children’, and a lack of case coordination of support and resourcing for families with complex needs. A-FVRM has provided valuable insights in developing a coordinated policing and community services response to these two cohorts that reduces the incidence and severity of the violence experienced.