DV Survivors in NSW to have ongoing support to escape and recover from violence – but when?
Women’s Safety NSW has cautiously welcomed advice from the Attorney General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, Hon. Mark Speakman, that the “NSW Government is currently exploring options for a state-wide case-management model to provide a more intensive level of support to victim-survivors of domestic and family violence who need it.”
Frontline domestic and family violence workers and survivors themselves have long been advocating for the expansion of the government’s service responses for victim-survivors of domestic and family violence to ensure they have the ongoing support they need to escape and recover from the violence they have experienced.
In a state-wide survey in April 2019, domestic and family violence workers delivering the primary response to women experiencing violence across NSW ranked ongoing case management support as the “biggest service gap” faced by clients of their service.
In August 2019, state-wide delegations of Aboriginal and Multicultural specialist domestic and family violence workers were made to Parliament House to ask the Minister directly for these services to be funded.
In December 2019, 200 frontline domestic violence workers from every metropolitan, regional and rural centre across the state signed a joint letter to the Minister and their Local Members if Parliament further calling for action.
In this letter, these workers noted that the current NSW Domestic Violence Reforms for Victims- Safer Pathway have revolutionised the way in which victim-survivors of domestic and family violence are supported in NSW in their safety – ensuring so many women who had previously fallen between the cracks are now caught, and offered essential crisis support in accordance with a highly integrated risk assessment and safety response. However, they pointed out that after this initial crisis response there remains a critical service gap.
“Until victim-survivors are provided with post-crisis case-management support, we will continue to see countless situations where women and children are left to flounder in the system or remain trapped in ongoing cycles of violence and abuse” the letter reads.
Independent Member for Sydney, Hon. Alex Greenwich, Labor’s Shadow Minister for Women and the Prevention of Domestic Violence, Hon. Trish Doyle and Green’s spokesperson for Women and the Prevention of Domestic Violence, Hon. Abigail Boyd all quickly responded to the letter with their support.
“We’ve been overwhelmed with the cross-party support for this reform”, says Hayley Foster, Chief Executive of Women’s Safety NSW. “We’ve always maintained that the number one priority of government is to ensure the safety of its citizens, and it’s so good to see everyone working together to make this a reality.”
Minister Speakman has advised that “[f]urther consultation on the model will occur when service model options have been fully explored”. Foster has welcomed this consultation process, noting the importance of the state-wide model being complementary and fully integrated with the existing service system. “We need to get the balance right”, says Foster. “We need the flexibility to ensure survivors from diverse backgrounds and experiences, who may come into contact with the service system through a range of different ways are able to access a continuity of service, but we also need to ensure that survivors have access to a consistent, coordinated and highly integrated specialist domestic and family service, no matter what their postcode, and that, as far as possible we prevent them from being passed from service-to-service having to re-tell their story.”
However, Women’s Safety NSW is keen to point out that this consultation process should not be a cause for further delay. There are already a number of services operating effectively which can be used as the basis for the model and numerous government-commissioned evaluations have in fact recommended the current system be expanded in this way.
Earlier in 2019 following the state-wide survey, Women’s Safety NSW and its members had submitted to the Minister and his department that two years is too long to wait for this critical service for women and children’s safety.
“This is still our position”, says Foster. “We can’t take our time with this. Women and children’s lives are on the line.”