Chapter 9: Reinforce good practice and commitment to continuous improvement

A successful element of any reform is that the change it brings is reinforced.

MARAM is a complex reform, which is still in development, with new practice guidance recently released and more to come. Regardless, work is underway to assess progress.

Section A: Family Safety Victoria as WoVG lead

Legislated reviews

The Family Violence Protection Act requires 2 reviews to be undertaken in the 5 years after initiation of the reforms.

Five-year legislative review of FVISS, CIP and MARAM

The Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor was appointed on 12 April 2022 to independently review Parts 5A[19] and 11[20] of the Act. The review will consider how effective the legal provisions have been in meeting their objectives to:

  • provide a framework for achieving consistency in family violence risk identification, assessment and management
  • promote service coordination to maximise the safety of individuals who have experienced family violence, prevent and reduce family violence, and promote perpetrator accountability
  • facilitate information sharing and enable organisations to obtain consolidated and up-to-date information from the CIP, to establish, assess and manage family violence risk

It will also consider whether there have been any inadvertent or adverse impacts associated with the provisions, and whether any changes are required to improve the operation of the legislation. The review will be tabled in Parliament by August 2023.

Legislative best-practice evidence review of MARAM

Under Section 194 of the Act, the Minister for Prevention of Family Violence must cause a review of the evidence underpinning MARAM up to every 5 years. The first review is scheduled to commence by September 2022. The review aims to assess whether MARAM reflects the current evidence of best practice for family violence risk assessment and family violence risk management, and to recommend changes to ensure it is consistent with best practice.

Key elements in scope will include:

  • the MARAM legislative instrument and accompanying framework policy documents
  • key aspects of MARAM Practice Guides for working with adults in the 2019 victim survivor-focused MARAM Practice Guides, assessment tools and supporting resources.
  • Child and young person-focused risk and perpetrator assessment, and risk management practices are out of scope for the current review. More time is required to embed them through implementation, before they are reviewed. MARAM is required to be reviewed every 5 years, so these matters will be the subject of future reviews.

Non-legislated reviews

Family Violence Prevention and Response Capability Frameworks

The Family Violence Prevention and Response Capability Frameworks set out the required skills and knowledge for family violence prevention and response. As these frameworks were completed in 2017, prior to the development of MARAM, the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing is undertaking a review as part of continuous improvement, to ensure they are MARAM aligned[21]. The review will be undertaken in collaboration with Safe and Equal, and in consultation with industry stakeholders.

[19] Part 5A of the Act refers to information sharing.

[20] Part 11 of the Act refers to the Family Violence Risk Assessment and Risk Management Framework.

[21] Reviewing the Capability Frameworks was a commitment under Strengthening the Foundations: First Rolling Action Plan 2019–22.

Section B: Departments as portfolio leads

Department of Education

Department of Education workforces were prescribed to the reforms in April 2021, while still experiencing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Surveys and feedback from education workforces are an important part of this phase of the reform rollout, to further inform and refine implementation activities.

Some of the responses include:

Post-training survey results from the first half of 2022 demonstrated that over 90 per cent of survey participants knew how to share information using the schemes and felt confident in applying them at work. Over 90 per cent of participants rated the training course as high or very high.

The Family Safety Victoria MARAM Framework Annual Survey reflected that MARAM tools, guidance and training need to be tailored to the education and care context.

The Term 3 2021 Principal Survey, which received 600 responses, identified that principals are more familiar with the PROTECT Four Critical Actions and guidance (93 per cent of respondents) than the information-sharing and family violence reforms’ guidance and toolkit (64 per cent of respondents). Schools are using a variety of external services for advice on family violence issues and risks: 60 per cent have used The Orange Door, 34 per cent have used a family violence service and 50 per cent have used a family service. Schools would like a variety of extra resources and supports to assist them in better identifying and supporting students affected by family violence.

Anecdotal stakeholder feedback suggests schools and centre-based early childhood education and care services are becoming increasingly capable and confident in using the information-sharing and family violence reforms. Positive examples of how the reforms are being used include an early childhood service that is proactively sharing information with a primary school to ensure the school is aware of services a family is interacting with. This enables the school to understand more about the circumstances of the child, and encourages continued service engagement to support school transition.

Department of Families, Fairness and Housing

The Department of Families, Fairness and Housing acknowledges and values the important role held by peak bodies and funded sector grants organisations to advise on barriers and opportunities for continuous improvement in implementation.

Through working in partnership with the Council to Homeless Persons, the CFECFW, VACCA, AMES, Whittlesea Community Connections and Jewish Care, the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing can improve implementation activities and support the reinforcement of good practice.

Internal Department of Families, Fairness and Housing governance helps provide policy and program-level oversight, and support clear and consistent communication and leadership, in relation to the ongoing implementation of MARAM and the information-sharing schemes.

More formal evaluations have also taken place, including a statewide evaluation of RAMP which concluded in August 2022. The RAMP Evaluation Report includes recommendations and proposed next steps to lift workforce confidence in MARAM practice and promote better-informed decision-making in RAMP meetings. The key evaluation findings and recommendations will be considered and translated into an action plan, which will be jointly developed over 2022–23.

Department of Health

The Department of Health has also established internal governance through a working group to provide reform oversight. The working group ensures that good practice is shared and continuous improvement in MARAM takes place through identifying alignment opportunities, planning to support alignment and monitoring progress.

More formal evaluations have taken place of the Maternal and Child Health family violence initiatives from 2018 to 2021. The initiatives funded additional family violence consultations and capacity building. The evaluation assessed the impact of the funding investment on maternal and child health nursing practice; alignment of maternal and child health with the broader family violence sector; and for families experiencing or at risk of family violence. The findings from the evaluation will be reported in the 2022-23 annual report.

To recognise good practice, the 2022 Victorian Public Healthcare Awards have included an award category of the ‘whole of hospital model for responding to family violence’. The award category is open to services that are currently implementing the SHRFV initiative, which is to support services to meet the requirements of the FVISS, CISS and MARAM.

Department of Justice and Community Safety

The Department of Justice and Community Safety MARAMIS Working Group brings the MARAM business units together, and provides an opportunity for the recognition of best practice and the exploration of continuous improvement through collaboration across the department.

Department of Justice and Community Safety business areas are collecting data through business-as-usual activities and surveys to help inform continuous improvement opportunities.

Examples include:

  • surveys by Consumer Affairs to identify which agencies are leading the way in collaboration and promotion of their services to other sectors. This helps identify champions to be used as models of best practice and sharing lessons to others
  • Corrections Victoria analysing family violence incidents in prisons using internal systems and databases that record family violence events.

CJS has dedicated a new resource in Forensic Intervention Services to contribute to the Department of Justice and Community Safety priority area of perpetrator interventions. A review has commenced of MARAM against current family violence pathway and services.

The courts

The courts are looking for opportunities to maintain alignment progress and continually improve practice. This currently includes a focus on streamlining the process of making information-sharing requests to improve efficiency, which is particularly important given the increase in demand.

The Family Violence Intervention Order online application is also being reviewed for continuous improvement opportunities, particularly in strengthening the questions to reflect MARAM evidence-based risk factors and intersectional factors relevant to risk.

Victoria Police

In 2021, Victoria Police engaged Swinburne University to identify opportunities to improve the predictability of Victoria Police’s Case Prioritisation Tool (CPT). The CPT forms part of Victoria Police’s Case Prioritisation and Response Model (CPRM) and is used by Family Violence Investigation Units (FVIUs) to determine investigation primacy. An improved tool was piloted at four Family Violence Investigation Units in July/August 2022.

Work has also commenced to improve the way the police gather child risk information and conduct assessments. Several changes are to be made in the next reporting period that include:

  • changes to police terminology to better reflect children impacted by family violence as distinct victims and not as a subset of adult victim survivors
  • the development of training, evidence-based tools and approaches that assist police to assess risk to children in family violence incidents as victims, and enable them to effectively engage and interview children
  • workforce capability uplifts to assist police to identify how harm to an individual can be used to perpetrate harm against another, to increase the likelihood of family-violence-related child abuse being detected, including during routine policing activities.

Section C: Sectors as lead

Funded sector capacity-building participants and Family Violence Regional Integration Committees have undertaken activities intended to reinforce and continuously improve practice:

  • The Council for Homeless Persons is supporting state-funded homelessness services to establish appropriate governance to oversee their organisation’s alignment, and to promote continuous improvement, information sharing and collaboration.
  • Community Housing Industry Associate Victoria (with funding from the Department of Education, and support from the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing), surveyed 39 community housing organisations to gather baseline data on the current state of knowledge about the information-sharing schemes. Baseline data will inform the development of learning resources and information sessions about sharing information to promote the safety and wellbeing of children, and how MARAM informs information sharing under both FVISS and CISS whenever family violence is present.
  • VACCA and the CFECFW are supporting child and families’ services sectors to establish appropriate governance to oversee their alignment, and promote continuous improvement, information sharing and collaboration.
  • VACSAL developed a staff survey to measure the engagement and feedback from staff about the success, challenges and progress of the implementation of the MARAM reforms. Respondents indicated the need for further training in MARAM and information-sharing responsibilities. This resulted in the human resources team supporting upskilling workers in areas identified in the survey.
  • Djirra conducted monthly reflective practice session among their information-sharing team. The sessions focused on MARAM alignment, and identifying areas and issues requiring further capability building, as well as the development of operational procedures and processes.
  • Beyond Housing has developed a full implementation review to ensure continual improvement. This will include organisational self-audit, case file review and checking staff understanding of MARAM and their responsibilities. Family Violence Regional Integration Committees conducted the MARAM alignment and systems integration survey to assess the progress of alignment to MARAM and information-sharing reforms in key areas. The survey monitors reforms at a regional level to ensure cohesive implementation across the service system, and to identify areas to strengthen. The survey will be conducted annually and is aimed at frontline workers to determine whether policy and framework changes are translating to outcomes at a practice level.

Summary of progress

It is currently challenging to benchmark continuous improvement in aligning the reforms. Each workforce, and organisations within workforces, commenced aligning to MARAM from a unique starting point.

Once developed, the MARAM Maturity Model (see Chapter 10) will provide an important source of data on activities undertaken to reinforce good practice and continuous improvement.

In the interim, departments, funded sector peaks and organisations do suggest reinforcement activities are taking place. The MARAM Annual Framework Survey highlights that an average of 78 per cent of respondents across all portfolios either had or are creating a change management plan for implementation, which will also support continuous improvement, where those plans include an assessment of outcomes.

Figure 23: MARAM Annual Survey – Respondent organisations with a Change Management Plan

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