Building the service system to enable a consistent response to family violence

Getting help should not depend on the particular entry point chosen by the victim

All services that come into contact with family violence victims should be equipped to identify, and in some cases, assess and manage risk, and to ensure that victims are supported.

Royal Commission into Family Violence:(opens in a new window) summary and recommendations.

Central to the recommendations of the Royal Commission is the need for a service system that works for victim survivors of family violence. When a victim survivor seeks help, they should receive it, no matter what service they choose to disclose to. And that response should consistently be respectful, sensitive and suitable to the victim survivor’s needs and identities.

The MARAM Framework sets out the procedures and goals for framework organisations to implement in order to create this responsive service system.

In the first year of operation, the focus for departments has been setting up the system foundations to enable a consistent approach to family violence across all services. This work has included:

  • change management strategies and positions to coordinate and bring about the change
  • creation of frameworks to support implementation of MARAM (such as a focus on intersectionality), including tailored frameworks for specific workforces
  • development of high-quality tools of practice that are aligned to MARAM, and which help create a consistent service response

Managing change

It is important for a sustainable future of the reforms that departments, peak bodies and organisations themselves are equipped to manage the change process and embed MARAM so it becomes business as usual.

Change management activities were delivered to further this aim.

Victorian Government change managers

The Victorian Government has funded change management positions in key affected agencies, namely the Department of Justice and Community Safety (DJCS), Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria (MCV) and the Children’s Court of Victoria (CCV) (collectively identified as the Courts). The positions commenced in 2017–18 and have been funded for three years for $1.8 million a year.

The Victorian Government has also funded a change management position in the Department of Education (DET), which will have prescribed workforces from 2020.

The positions will enable the affected agencies to develop tailored change management strategies and implementation plans to assist framework organisations within their portfolios to align to MARAM; some of these strategies and plans are already developed and underway as described below.

Courts change management plan

The Courts have engaged a change manager to progress a change management plan. Phase 1 of the plan involved the Courts hosting change workshops with internal staff to assess the current and future state of the response to family violence.

Phase 2 of the Courts’ implementation plan will focus on alignment and operational readiness with an emphasis on family violence-related policies, procedures, learning and development and training materials.

DJCS MARAM alignment strategy

DJCS developed the Aligning with the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management Framework for Better Family Violence Outcomes 2019–2020 Strategy. The Strategy guides key areas of alignment across the range of DJCS agencies and workforces.

The Strategy describes how DJCS will progress its alignment with MARAM over the next two years, and it outlines the focus areas and key initiatives of framework organisations and programs, both within and funded by the department, towards achieving that alignment.

The immediate aim of the Strategy is to provide a pathway for the department to be aligned appropriately with MARAM. The Strategy also aims to make a longer-term contribution to the objectives of the MARAM Framework including that:

  • family violence risk assessment and management informs all MARAM-prescribed justice services and programs, to support the safety and recovery of those experiencing family violence
  • victim survivor self-assessment of their own safety is understood and integrated into family violence risk assessment and management strategies
  • effective information sharing that keeps perpetrators in view is an important way to support consistent family violence risk assessment and management across services and sectors

DJCS also developed the Information Sharing Culture Change Strategy and Action Plan in 2018–2019 to support and build the information-sharing culture necessary to enact responsibilities 5 and 6 of MARAM.

Justice Health

Justice Health actively supported the development and implementation of the DJCS Information Sharing Culture Change Strategy and Action Plan. To help other information sharing entities (ISEs), Justice Health:

  • created a short video for DJCS ISEs outlining risk-relevant information that Justice Health may hold
  • collaborated with the Berry Street family violence service on their short video showcasing successful information sharing between Justice Health and Berry Street
  • prepared a one-page summary outlining the information Justice Health holds

Justice Health is also working with key stakeholders to ensure there is a clear understanding of the changes underway. The range of methods Justice Health has used to communicate with stakeholders includes:

  • holding targeted workshops for contracted providers conveying MARAM and information-sharing concepts and obligations
  • contributing to DJCS family violence newsletters
  • presenting at the Justice Health quarterly staff forum
  • developing an operations manual including process flows for information sharing
  • providing information about Justice Health’s processes to the DJCS Regional Services Network

Justice Health has identified information technology and data gathering opportunities for MARAM alignment and continuous improvement, including:

  • building a new request type into Justice Health’s case management system, which allows for data capture and provides procedural guidance for Justice Health staff when completing requests. The request type is built around the Family violence information sharing ministerial guidelines
  • updating Justice Health’s electronic medical record database for adult prisoners to enable health staff to apply family violence flags to relevant case notes for an individual and family violence alerts against an individual’s entire medical record
  • collaborating with contracted providers to establish a reporting tool to inform on FVIS and CIS activity across prison health services. This will provide valuable information about the uptake of information sharing practice over time

Future plans for implementation in Justice Health include:

  • develop a communications and engagement plan for contracted providers
  • develop a touch-point map to determine the roles and responsibilities for Justice Health staff under the MARAM to equip staff with the training, practice tools and support to fulfill their relevant responsibilities under MARAM
  • conduct prisoner-journey mapping to identify touch points with people experiencing or using family violence in the prison system and youth custodial centres

Victoria Police Family Violence Response Model

The Family Violence Response Model (FVRM) has been developed to integrate the four pillars of MARAM in its design so that they are mutually supportive and reinforcing. The FVRM set out the change process to embed MARAM into the police family violence response.

The FVRM has four key components:

  • development and implementation of Family Violence Investigation Units (FVIUs)
  • a new Family Violence Report (known as the L17)
  • a Case Prioritisation and Response Model (CPRM) for FVIUs along with targeted training
  • a mandatory force-wide education program

DHHS Champions of Change forum

DHHS in partnership with the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare facilitated the Champions of Change forum in August 2018 to bring together senior practitioners and executives from across DHHS workforces to establish collective goals to prepare for the information sharing reforms. The forum was designed to engage organisational leaders to drive cultural change, and provide an environment that promotes and encourages information sharing and supports collaborative practice.

Further Champions of Change forums are planned for 2020. These forums will provide a platform to discuss the broader service sector’s progress on developing a shared understanding of family violence.

Organisational resources to guide change

All workforces need to be supported in the delivery of MARAM-aligned practice with appropriate resources.

To prepare organisations for the coming changes, FSV developed a range of guidance products and tools to assist organisational leaders in their planning for implementation of MARAM.

  • MARAM Framework on a page(opens in a new window) — this document provides a quick reference guide to MARAM. It summarises the principles, pillars, responsibilities, system architecture and accountability, and the legislative and policy environment
  • MARAM alignment checklist(opens in a new window) — a checklist to assist organisational leaders identify important first steps in aligning to MARAM. The checklist sets out a series of activities to undertake in the first 12 months of alignment activity
  • MARAM responsibilities: decision guide(opens in a new window) — a diagram for organisational leaders to use to determine the appropriate responsibilities for different staff roles within their organisation. The decision guide can be tailored by sector leaders to make it more specific to a particular workforce or sector

FSV is also developing guidance for use by organisational leaders and managers on the change management process to embed MARAM in their business-as-usual operations.

The guidance will not be prescriptive in the processes an organisation must undertake, recognising that the breadth of organisations encompassed by the reforms will not be met by a uniform approach. The guidance will acknowledge the maturity approach identified by the MARAM Framework, and that alignment is progressive, and will require change over time.

As well as practical steps towards aligning to the MARAM on an operational basis, the guidance will examine ways to achieve the deeper cultural change envisaged by the Royal Commission as necessary to see a Victoria free from family violence.

Tools for consistent practice

A further essential element of setting up the service system is the creation of tools and guidance which are MARAM aligned. For a victim survivor, no matter what service they disclose to, they will be assessed based on consistent and evidenced-based risk factors.

‘The assessments were so much better. One worker had been here three years and I didn’t recognise it was her assessment it was so much better and detailed.’

MARAM assessment tools

To support professionals in their risk assessment and management practice, FSV produced victim survivor focused MARAM Practice Guides and tools, publicly released in July 2019.

The tools are available for use across all service sectors and include screening tools, brief, intermediate and comprehensive risk assessments, child risk assessment tools, and safety plans. Use of these MARAM-aligned tools will promote consistent practice across the service system. They can be used by workforces directly, or incorporated into existing tools.

The MARAM Practice Guides and tools were developed through extensive consultation with more than 1,650 stakeholders, including experts such as the Commission for Children and Young People and peak bodies for Aboriginal community controlled organisations, men’s behavioural change programs, specialist family violence services, Victoria Police, Seniors’ Rights, Women with Disabilities Victoria, the Victim Survivor Advisory Council, government departments, and professionals. Consultation included organisations that specialise in working with Aboriginal communities, diverse communities, and older people experiencing family violence to support an intersectional lens and inclusive practice within the MARAM Practice Guides.

The user-feedback testing was positive, with specialist family violence practitioners commenting:

‘The safety plan was good. Little people are easily forgotten in times of crisis so I found the child tool really important.’

Online Tools for Risk Assessment and Management

A new online system, Tools for Risk Assessment and Management (TRAM), has been developed to host the suite of MARAM tools from screening, brief, intermediate, child and comprehensive assessment. The online risk assessment tools for adult and child victim survivors enable professionals to conduct individual assessments applying relevant questions based on community and identity, regardless of entry point into the service system.

TRAM is integrated within The Orange Door client relationship management (CRM) system and is being used in all The Orange Door services. It is accessible via a separate online portal for framework organisations outside of The Orange Door. Select specialist services are already using TRAM.

The use of TRAM assists framework organisations to align with MARAM by promoting consistent and collaborative practice across the service sector.

Key features of TRAM include that it:

  • is built on the evidenced-based risk factors
  • provides a visual summary of risk factors to assist in applying structured professional judgement in assessing the level of risk
  • keeps perpetrators in view by highlighting all occasions a perpetrator is named as the predominant aggressor across all risk assessments within the service
  • the use of TRAM is improving the risk assessments being undertaken as demonstrated by this case example provided by The Orange Door:

‘Wendy’, a practitioner at The Orange Door, conducted a family violence risk assessment for an adult victim survivor who has seven children. Wendy assessed each child as a victim survivor in their own right using TRAM.

Wendy acknowledged the shift in practice was challenging and took more time, but she uncovered pertinent risk information she would not have otherwise known.

Crucially, further information about the children’s mother’s level of risk was also obtained. Many perpetrators of family violence involve children in their violence to directly or indirectly target women as mothers or carers. Assessing each child informed the risk management actions that were taken for the children and their mother, including safety planning and further service engagement, as well as the required interventions for the perpetrator.

DHHS virtual assistant tool for housing officers

DHHS is developing a virtual assistant tool to assist public housing officers who work with clients experiencing family violence.

The tool gives staff immediate access to requested information in protocols and guidelines to support decision making, supervision, officer safety and wellbeing. If a housing services officer has a query, such as ‘What do I do if I suspect family violence?’, the virtual assistant returns the relevant housing guidelines, which will be aligned with MARAM.

A pilot of the virtual assistant has been completed and roll out is planned for the second half of 2019.

DJCS tools

The Youth Justice Case Management System includes a MARAM screen and comprehensive risk assessment tool.

Corrections Victoria has integrated MARAM concepts and assessment indicators into the new case management model, Dynamic Risk Assessment for Offender Re-entry (DRAOR), for offenders on a parole or post-sentence order. This ensures family violence is consistently considered as part of these assessments.

Courts case management system

The Courts will develop a new case management system that will record and appropriately share family violence risk assessment and management information. This includes providing for adequate ways to collect and record data, which will safeguard reporting obligations and assist in continuous improvement.

While awaiting development of this case management system, the Courts are planning to make interim upgrades to existing internal case management systems used by practitioners to incorporate MARAM including risk assessment tools.

Victoria Police Family Violence Report

Victoria Police commenced a statewide roll out of a new evidence-based family violence risk assessment and risk management tool known as the Family Violence Report (FVR). This tool is an enhanced version of the existing family violence report used by police (known as the L17) and is the means through which Victoria Police has operationalised MARAM for frontline police members.

The FVR contains a scored actuarial risk assessment tool that will help frontline police members to identify cases at increased risk of future family violence and the severity of the violence.

The FVR:

  • introduces a process that triages cases to Family Violence Investigation Units for further review, prioritisation, comprehensive risk assessment and management intervention
  • ensures consistent and relevant information is collected and shared with external support services
  • guides members in applying evidenced-based practice

The FVR comprises 39 risk assessment questions, 15 of which are scored (and four of these 15 scored questions relate to high-risk factors in MARAM). Police members, like practitioners undertaking risk assessments, may use their professional judgment to override the score where high risk factors are otherwise identified.

From mid-July 2019, police members statewide have been able to complete the FVR in the field on mobile devices. It is expected that, for most police members, completing an FVR on the device while in the field will be quicker and capture more comprehensive and accurate information than completing the FVR back at the station at the end of a shift. This allows more time to be spent with family violence victim survivors.

Corrections Victoria

Corrections Victoria has updated tools and practice guidelines to embed family violence and begin alignment with MARAM, thereby providing for a consistent practice across the workforce:

Family violence is now included in the parole suitability assessment when recommending safe and stable housing for victim survivors of family violence.

A Family Violence Identification Form has been implemented in women’s prisons, which is completed within 72 hours of a woman's reception to identify if they have current or expired intervention orders, current or past experiences of family violence, and asking if they would like support in relation to this. This identification triggers referrals to relevant programs.

Corrections Victoria will focus future efforts on:

  • synthesising content of the MARAM Practice Guides by including it in Corrections Victoria’s existing key practice documents
  • supporting the development of perpetrator risk assessment and management tools
  • reviewing assessment tools used in the Rehabilitation and Reintegration Branch one-day Family Violence Program pilot for offenders that are assessed as low and moderate risk of family violence
  • embedding the Managing family violence in community correctional services practice guideline as part of business as usual case management activities and incorporating perpetrator tools, when available
  • reviewing all identified policy and practice guidelines for changes to be made relevant to perpetrator tools

Action plans to implement change

As part of the change management process, departments are producing workforce-specific models, actions plans and frameworks with clear goals and procedures for achieving lasting change and aligning to MARAM.

Some of the frameworks have a focus on MARAM responsibilities of identifying, assessing and managing family violence risk. Other frameworks are not specifically MARAM focused but introduce the application of an intersectional lens across workforce practices, which is reflected in Principles 7 and 8 of MARAM.

Dhelk Dja and the Nargneit Birrang Framework

Dhelk Dja(opens in a new window) is the key Aboriginal-led Victorian Agreement that commits the signatories — Aboriginal communities, Aboriginal services and the Victorian Government — to work together and be accountable for ensuring that Aboriginal women, men, children, young people, Elders, families, and communities are stronger, safer, thriving and living free from family violence.

The Nargneit Birrang Framework(opens in a new window) will be released in early 2020. It sits under Dhelk Dja and will provide concrete guidance on how services can support a community-led response to family violence with Aboriginal communities.

The Nargneit Birrang Framework sets out six integrated principles:

  • self-determination is fundamental
  • safety is a priority
  • culture, country and community are embedded in healing
  • the past impacts on the present
  • healing is trauma informed
  • resilience and hope make a difference

Everybody Matters

Everybody Matters: Inclusion and Equity Statement(opens in a new window) was produced by FSV as the Victorian Government’s 10-year commitment to build a more inclusive, safe, responsive and accountable family violence system with the capacity and capability to meet the diverse and complex needs of all Victorians.

Everybody Matters embodies the principles of MARAM in signalling that family violence is unacceptable in any form, in any community or culture, that the drivers of family violence intersect with other forms of structural inequality and discrimination, and that there is a need for a workforce capable of providing responsive services that recognises the different experiences and vulnerabilities of different communities and age cohorts.

People within these communities can face multiple and intersecting barriers to reporting family violence, as well as in finding appropriate help and support.

Royal Commission into Family Violence(opens in a new window): summary and recommendations.

As an immediate action of Everybody Matters, an inclusion action plan for The Orange Door will be released in early 2020. The inclusion action plan will set out a three-year plan to embed inclusion, access and equity in The Orange Door services and policies.

The inclusion action plan recognises that communities are not homogenous, and individuals may be affected in different ways due to structural inequalities. It will ensure services for people from diverse communities are culturally responsive and safe.

A separate Aboriginal inclusion action plan will align with Principle 7 to ensure that services provided to people from Aboriginal communities are culturally responsive and safe.

SAFER Children Risk Assessment Framework

The SAFER Children Risk Assessment Framework (SAFER) is a guided professional judgement approach and draws on MARAM and the Best Interest Case Practice Model.

The SAFER acronym summarises the following key practice activities:

  • Seek and share information
  • Analyse the information gathered to determine risk of harm
  • Formulate a plan of action to address those risks and the child’s needs
  • Enact the plan
  • Review changes and reassess the risks

SAFER guides child protection practitioners in their day-to-day work in identifying, assessing and managing the risk of harm to children — including family violence risk — and facilitates planning for their safety and wellbeing. SAFER includes practice guides, tools and templates to support all Victorian child protection practitioners.

Figure 3 SAFER Children Framework Image

  • Download' Figure 3 SAFER Children Framework Image'

Specialist family violence and sexual assault services model and implementation plan

The service model for the specialist family violence and sexual assault services within the portfolio is being updated as part of new service agreements.

The service model will embed MARAM requirements as set out in the MARAM Practice Guides. In doing this, it ensures alignment across funded specialist family violence services.

Corrections Victoria family violence action plans

The Corrections Victoria Family Violence Action Plan(opens in a new window) underpins the Corrections Victoria Family Violence Strategy 2018–2021(opens in a new window). The 2018 Action Plan includes MARAM initiatives for employee training and embedding the MARAM into practice. Corrections Victoria will support implementation by aligning policies, procedures, practice guidance and tools with the MARAM. Corrections Victoria employees will be in the first tranche of people to receive training about the MARAM.

The Action Plan for 2019 has been developed and is currently awaiting endorsement.

Justice Health

The Justice Health Quality Framework has been reviewed. It sets out standards of care and is a contractual obligation for contracted service providers. Relevant sections were updated to align to responsibilities for information sharing and consultation under the MARAM Framework.