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Overarching context

Context for the evaluation

It is important to situate the work of the first (2018) evaluation of The Orange Door within the broader context of the family violence reforms and the transformation of the social services sector in Victoria. The evaluation has taken into account this broader context when considering findings and opportunities for improvement. For example, we have been mindful that it is very early in the implementation of The Orange Door and therefore some issues are to be expected during early implementation and planning. Our findings and opportunities have been developed to be forward looking with the intention of improving the future rollout of The Orange Door.

In this context, it is important to realise that where evaluation findings indicate that a process or system is not working as in line with the intent described in the foundational documents for The Orange Door – that these be viewed as lessons in the evaluation of the reforms, rather than as ‘failures’ of The Orange Door. It is not productive at this point to ‘benchmark’ The Orange Door against outcomes or achievements that would be expected only when the model is fully evolved and operational across all 17 areas.

Developmental evaluations of initiatives in the first twelve months of any innovative service model (such as The Orange Door), are expected to result in inherent challenges and transition friction in relation to:

  • conceptual issues
  • governance and oversight processes (including monitoring and reporting)
  • interface with existing policy and existing legislation
  • structural and systems approaches to service delivery
  • infrastructure, IT and other resources
  • workforce issues
  • administrative needs that are specific to start up phases
  • interaction with the broader service system within which the service is being developed

As such, it is unsurprising that this developmental evaluation has identified elements that can be strengthened as The Orange Door is rolled out across Victoria.

Purpose of the family and child and family violence reforms and The Orange Door

The Royal Commission recognised that “the way that various parts of the family violence system work together make it harder for women and children to access support, and for the service system to collaborate to provide a broad range of services”[1]. The Royal Commission recommended the establishment of Support and Safety Hubs to “provide a single, area-based entry point into local specialist family violence services, perpetrator programs and Integrated Family Services and link people to other support services” (Recommendation 37).

Our evaluation is grounded in the original purpose of family violence reforms and The Orange Door. The four domains that the Victorian Government’s family violence reforms are working to achieve, outlined in the Family Violence Outcomes Framework are:

  • Family violence and gender inequality are not tolerated.
  • Victim survivors, vulnerable children and families, are safe and supported to recover and thrive.
  • Perpetrators are held to account, engaged and connected.
  • Preventing and responding to family violence is systemic and enduring.

The reforms are underpinned by a recognition of the gaps in the current system, particularly the challenges in accessing services and the experience of services by Aboriginal people and people from diverse communities such as multicultural communities, LGBTIQ people and older people. The reforms are underpinned by a commitment to Aboriginal self-determination as outlined in the Aboriginal 10-Year Family Violence Agreement, Dhelk Dja: Safe Our Way – Strong Culture, Strong Peoples, Strong Families. They are also underpinned by an understanding of diversity and intersectionality, recognising that many forms of social characteristics intersect. The Everybody Matters: Inclusion and Equity Statement outlines principles to guide the reform approach and work to ensure the inclusiveness of services including that services are underpinned by human rights, and approaches that are strengths-based, trauma-informed, culturally safe and person centred.

The Orange Door is a critical part of the Roadmap to Reforms: strong families, safe children, which aims to strengthen and reform the family and child wellbeing sector in Victoria. The Roadmap articulates a key role for The Orange Door in terms of triage and risk assessment, early intervention and wrap around services for families and children where there are concerns about child wellbeing. It anticipates the need to leverage from existing Child FIRST alliances and systems and integrate them into the new The Orange Door model of service delivery [2].

It is important to acknowledge that The Orange Door is one of many critical reforms currently underway in Victoria and that this is a time of immense change in the family violence service system. Other critical reforms that are currently being implemented in Victoria include: the introduction of the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme; the Child Information Sharing Scheme; the Free from violence prevention strategy; initiatives as part of Building from Strength: 10-year industry plan for family violence prevention and response; rollout of the Specialist Family Violence Courts model; The Family Violence Risk Assessment and Risk Management Framework (MARAM); and the Family Violence Outcomes Framework.

The scale of change of the family violence and family and child wellbeing reforms and the dynamic nature of reform implementation will impact The Orange Door workforce and practice at this early implementation point during the evaluation.

The Victorian Government’s Support and Safety Hubs Statewide Concept (July 2017) describes the vision for The Orange Door, which is that it “will be accessible, safe and welcoming to people, providing quick and simple access to the support and safety they need. The Hubs will also focus on perpetrators of family violence, to keep them in view and to connect them to services that assist in holding them accountable for their actions and changing their behaviour.”[3] Thus The Orange Door plays a pivotal role in shifting service provision from the existing models that have been identified as failing to meet the needs of victims of family violence, to shifting towards linked up, integrated responses to family violence risk and for children and families in need of support. To this end, the importance of The Orange Door to the overall reforms cannot be underestimated – nor can the significant change management required for Victoria to reach this vision. This evaluation is occurring at the very start of this significant change process, and as such, we would anticipate seeing the foundational building blocks to be evolving in order to move Victoria towards this vision.

Scale and magnitude of family violence reforms

The family violence reforms are system-wide and transformative, spanning from primary prevention activities to early intervention, response and recovery. They impact across many departments, agencies and the community sector, with interdependencies and interactions between reforms. As a result of these extensive reforms, the workforce requires significant transformation and expansion, to work in a different way alongside different services.

For example, the establishment of The Orange Door has impacted the movement of the local community sector in those areas where it is operational as practitioners move between case management services and The Orange Door. Similarly, we recognise that the first four areas of The Orange Door were established at the same time as the establishment and expansion of the Central Information Point (CIP) and the redevelopment of the Family Violence Risk Assessment and Risk Management Framework. Both of these initiatives impact on the work and practice of The Orange Door and the implementation of the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme and the Child Information Sharing Scheme.

We also acknowledge that the detail of the reforms is still being defined, implemented and refined. Where possible we have made reference to work currently underway to address issues identified.

Timing of the family violence reforms and the evaluation’s field work

The evaluation team is cognisant of the timing of the evaluation within the broader rollout of The Orange Door. FSV was first established in July 2017, the service model signed off in December 2017, and the first four areas commenced service delivery in May 2018. The timing of the implementation to design and set up a new service with multiple delivery partners was extremely tight. This included all of the logistics to identify appropriate properties, lease them, establish a new CRM, implement the new family violence risk assessment management framework and associated tools, establish new governance, and recruit to The Orange Door.

We also acknowledge that the evaluation team conducted site visits and collected data from October – December 2018 and the pace of the reforms and implementation means that some of the issues raised during the evaluation have been addressed already. For example, we understand that there have been steps to introduce reflective practice across disciplines in one of The Orange Door areas since our evaluation fieldwork. This was an opportunity identified to FSV early in the evaluation which has been subsequently actioned. We also understand that FSV is progressing workforce training, a workforce strategy, and a performance framework, as well as addressing physical infrastructure issues. It is important to acknowledge in the context of our evaluation findings and identified opportunities for improvement that FSV have an agreed ongoing project plan for the further development of The Orange Door.

Maturity of the social services system

In addition to the family violence system reforms, the Victorian social services system has experienced reforms to the child and family service sector through the Roadmap to Reform: Strong families, safe children initiatives, and is at the same time continuing to implement the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

This reform environment has meant major change for the social services sector workforce. There has been huge investment in family violence services including The Orange Door as well as investment in child protection practitioners and family services in Victoria. The supply of social workers is limited and while there has been some expansion of training, there are still constraints on the supply of experienced practitioners. Many of the experienced practitioners have only worked with perpetrator services or family violence services and there are strong cultural issues to overcome in asking these services to work alongside each other. See section 6.3.1 for further discussion of the challenges between practice perspectives of the different workforces who have come together in The Orange Door.

'If you look at a service, they are down on staff in The Orange Door but also in their own agency. They are struggling to find people with the skills. So many jobs that became available at the one time without an adequate workforce management process.' – Stakeholder interview.

While there are challenges to increasing workforce supply, practice is also changing. The redeveloped risk assessment and risk management framework (MARAM) was released in 2018, with resources and tools and training under development. Our understanding is that new risk assessment framework for statutory child protection and the child and family practice framework (the Best interests Case Practice Model) are also currently being redeveloped and will be aligned to the MARAM practice approaches.

Family Safety Victoria is currently progressing the development of a workforce strategy which will assist in strengthening the workforce planning for The Orange Door. This strategy builds on the 10 Year Industry Plan for the family violence sector[4] and the Community Services Industry Plan[5] both of which address issues of workforce sustainability and strength. However, this workforce strategy can only influence and direct workforce initiatives within the family violence and child and family services sector – it cannot expect to influence the broader workforce issues within the Victorian social service sector that are currently under pressure from major national reforms in disability and aged care.

In particular, it is important to recognise the infancy of perpetrator services that currently are primarily men’s behaviour change programs. The research and development of the evidence-base on what works in perpetrator practice is at a much earlier stage of maturity and development than research and practice with family violence victim services and children and families. This is a reality of the current state of practice that The Orange Door service model has begun with – it should then be expected that a significant focus will need to be made to strengthen this type of practice and to integrate it well within multidisciplinary practice within The Orange Door.

Local service system context

The Orange Door has been established within the context of local services and local relationships and networks that already exist and are varied from area to area. The number and nature of services within the local service system and the nature and complexity of existing relationships impact the establishment and effective operation of The Orange Door in an area. For example, the strength of the existing service in Barwon working with perpetrators prior to The Orange Door being established has been one of the reasons for the successful integration and operation of that service within The Orange Door. Our identified opportunities recognise that the local service system impacts on FSV and partner agency’s capacity to deliver intake and assessment services as well as provide an effective interface to the broader service system. Furthermore, for many diverse communities, targeted services will exist and be accessible in some areas of The Orange Door and not in others. Service offerings will differ markedly across the state for many client cohorts and this will therefore impact on the role of The Orange Door in each area.

The strength and nature of the existing service system in each of The Orange Door areas needs to be considered in evaluating a new service such as The Orange Door. Initial implementation and early service delivery of The Orange Door can predictably be influenced by the strengths and weaknesses in the existing social services system and may not necessarily reflect strengths and weaknesses of the new service or model itself.

[3]   Royal Commission into Family Violence, Report and Recommendations Volume II, 2016 p.264

[4]   Victorian Department of Health, ‘Roadmap to Reform: strong families, safer children, the first steps. April 2016.

[5]   FSV, ‘Support and Safety Hubs: Statewide model’, April 2018.

[6]   FSV, ‘Building from Strength: 10-Year Industry Plan for Family Violence Prevention and Response, 2017

[7]   VCOSS ‘Community Services Industry Plan’, August 2018