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When home becomes the workplace: family violence, practitioner wellbeing and remote service delivery during COVID-19 restrictions

Place-based child and family services Service delivery Victims of family violence Violence against women Violence against children Victoria

Following the continued increase in daily coronavirus infections in the Metropolitan Melbourne area in July 2020, Victoria re-entered Stage 3 restrictions and a state of disaster was declared on 2 August 2020. This announcement further tightened restrictions, including a nightly curfew between 8pm to 5am, limiting people’s movements to a five kilometre-radius of their homes, restricting household shopping to one person per household once a day and a one-hour time limit on daily exercise outside the home.

In Australia like many other countries, pandemic control measures have been accompanied by a recognition that family violence victims will face heightened risk while also recognising that opportunities for help seeking are limited. This has necessitated a pivot to remote service delivery for the specialist family violence and men’s services sector, among others.

This report presents the findings of a state-wide study of the wellbeing impacts of working during the COVID-19 restrictions on Victoria’s specialist family violence and men’s services sector; the frontline response to the ‘shadow pandemic’, alongside an exploration of the challenges and benefits of delivering services remotely during this period. The authors draw on insights gained from a survey of 113 Victorian practitioners responding to family violence and from focus groups with 28 practitioners from specialist family violence and men’s services during July-August 2020.

This report also draws attention to the wellbeing considerations for Victorian practitioners working remotely to support people experiencing and using violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. It provides critical insights into how practitioners can be supported remotely to do this incredibly challenging yet crucial work. As Victoria moves through the easing of restrictions and attempts to achieve a COVID-normal working environment in the midst of a global health crisis, the findings presented here are vital for understanding the wellbeing supports required to ensure effective and sustainable practice for family violence practitioners. The increased prevalence and risk of family violence during this period necessitates that we do everything possible to ensure that the wellbeing of practitioners working to respond to those experiencing and using family violence is supported as they provide vital services to the Victorian community.

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