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Collaborative practice: establishing collaborative practice as business as usual

Solving family violence is not a technical science. It calls for sustained human effort and a shared commitment to building a culture of non-violence and gender equality, in which all individuals are afforded dignity and respect. The Commission is confident that, through collaborative effort — on the part of government, non-government organisations and the community — the cultural change necessary to prevent family violence in the long term is possible.

Royal Commission into Family Violence: summary and recommendations.

Collaborative practice is integral to MARAM. Responsibilities 5 and 6 focus on the importance of information sharing, secondary consultations and referrals. Responsibilities 9 and 10 require coordinated and ongoing collaborative risk management as part of a multi-agency approach.

MARAM’s focus on collaboration is being enacted as follows:

  • information sharing — as an essential element of assessing and managing family violence risk, framework organisations prescribed as information sharing entities are actively sharing risk-relevant information
  • a collaborative service system — steps are being taken across departments, agencies and organisations to formally establish collaborative practice
  • community of practice — as well as formal service system changes, departments, agencies and organisations are forming communities of practice to promote best practice in aligning with MARAM
  • a range of internal governance structures have been established to coordinate and support efforts at embedding this collaborative practice, aligning with Pillar 4 of the MARAM Framework. Pillar 4 framework requirement: framework organisations establish or utilise existing relevant governance and advisory structures to implement the Framework

Information sharing

Central Information Point

Recommendation 7 of the Royal Commission was to establish a secure Central Information Point (CIP). Recommendation 2 - ‘The Victorian Government establish a secure Central Information Point. Led by Victoria Police, it should consist of a co-located multi-disciplinary team with representatives from Victoria Police, the courts (registry staff), the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice and Regulation (Corrections Victoria) who are authorised to obtain information from their respective databases [by 1 July 2018]. A summary of this information should be available to the Risk Assessment and Management Panels, the recommended Support and Safety Hubs, the 24-hour crisis telephone service Safe Steps and the Men’s Referral Service to permit effective assessment and management of risk in individual cases.’

The CIP brings together information on perpetrators from Victoria Police, Court Services Victoria, Corrections Victoria and DHHS — specifically Child Protection. This information is provided in a single report to professionals — supporting informed risk assessment and management, and keeping the perpetrator in view. It is thus a significant enabler of improved practice in line with the MARAM Framework.

CIP reports are currently available to The Orange Door and Berry Street.

A review in mid-2019 reported that professionals found that obtaining information from four agencies summarised in one report helps professionals to use structured professional judgement to assess the level of family violence risk.

Feedback from The Orange Door and Berry Street Practitioners included:

‘It is only helpful to get a CIP Report. It is never not helpful.’

During 2018–19 there were more than 2,800 CIP reports delivered.

Considering the positive review findings, FSV is currently exploring the possibility of widening access to the CIP and broadening the sources of data a CIP report can cover.

Information sharing is influencing court outcomes for perpetrators

A CIP request provided details of ‘Steve’s’ history of family violence perpetrated towards multiple affected family members. This established a pattern of behaviour and highlighted the tactics Steve utilised to commit family violence. The CIP results identified that Steve had a history of contravening previous community correction orders (CCOs), and that he was breaching a family violence intervention order and the conditions under the Court Integrated Services Program (CISP).

As a result, the CISP worker was able to write a recommendation to the court that a further CCO would not be effective as Steve would be likely to continue to breach orders and place the affected family member at risk. This enabled a more appropriate court outcome and increased Steve’s sentence to time in prison.

Victoria Police

During this reporting period, Victoria Police established a new unit within its Record Services Division called the Inter-Agency Information Sharing Service (IISS). This unit is made up of VPS staff and operates within business hours to process information sharing requests.

The number of information sharing requests received under the FVIS and CIS Schemes from commencement to end July 2019 was 2,213.

Courts

The Courts have rolled out statewide Family Violence Information Sharing training and reforms. The Courts have established a central Information Sharing Team that respond to requests for information.

Between February 2018 to June 2019 the Courts have received 6,548 requests under the FVIS Scheme, and were able to share information on 6,373 occasions. Additionally, the Courts voluntarily shared information (that is, additional detail not part of the original request but deemed risk relevant) on 2,515 occasions.

DJCS

Information sharing is actively taking place across DJCS agencies:

  • Community Operations and Victim Support Agency — between September 2018 and May 2019, the Victims of Crime Helpline made 59 voluntary shares, 83 outgoing requests and 14 incoming requests (FVIS and CIS Schemes). Of note, in April–May 2019, there was a spike in outgoing requests to Victoria Police after the DJCS Family Violence Practice Lead trained Helpline staff on information sharing and MARAM
  • Corrections Victoria — between February 2018 and June 2019, Corrections Victoria received 557 requests under the FVIS Scheme
  • Justice Health — between September 2018 and May 2019, Justice Health received 17 incoming requests across both the FVIS and CIS Schemes

Corrections Victoria

As part of promoting the importance of information sharing and aligning with MARAM, Corrections Victoria partnered with Domestic Violence Victoria in a project to encourage all domestic violence service organisations to make a FVIS Scheme request of Corrections in support of a risk assessment with a victim. This project saw a 350 per cent increase in requests compared with the previous eight months of the scheme.

As part of continuously improving information sharing within Corrections Victoria an issues log has been developed. This supports collaboration with Courts, Victoria Police and DHHS to action and respond to any information sharing issues raised.

Service system collaboration

The Orange Door

A key purpose of The Orange Door is to improve service collaboration and integration for better client outcomes.

The bringing together of professionals from different disciplines is promoting a shared understanding of family violence and child wellbeing, a consistent and collaborative practice and stronger skills for risk assessment and management. In doing so, The Orange Door is aligning its practices with MARAM. Experienced family violence professionals have commented on the real benefits they have seen from The Orange Door:

I was able to establish contact with the woman’s support worker and share relevant information regarding the [perpetrator] so she could support the [victim survivor] to set the record straight in the Family Court.

Practitioners from The Orange Door also identify the benefits to their practice:

Having two workers go out together (one with expertise in working with children and families, one with expertise in family violence) is creating a new level of collaboration and practice. It’s great to bounce ideas off each other and learn from each other. This is what The Orange Door is all about: collaborating around good safety planning and meeting children’s needs.

FSV is developing a MARAM alignment strategy specific to The Orange Door. The strategy will highlight links between The Orange Door and the broader service system to promote collaborative practice.

To assist in service system collaboration The Orange Door has entered into Interim Operational Guidance with the Magistrates Court of Victoria, Community Operations and Victims Support Agency, Child Protection and Integrated Family Services, Men’s Referral Service, Risk Assessment and Management Panels and Victoria Police. The guidance provides minimum statewide requirements to establish local processes including for information sharing and referrals.

Service system navigators

To support The Orange Door to build its collaborative practice further, specialised service system navigator (SSN) positions have been created. A key part of the SSN’s role is to work collaboratively with the local service network to strengthen access to services and responsiveness to diverse communities. SSNs work in partnership with local services and agencies to understand service capacity, proactively develop service interfaces, and identify and resolve service system interface issues that may arise in each local area.

Family Violence Regional Integration Committees

Family Violence Regional Integration Committees (FVRICs) provide regional leadership on service integration and system reform. FVRICs bring together specialist family violence agencies, child and family services alliances (which include Child FIRST and Integrated Family Services), Victoria Police, Dhelk Dja Action Groups, the Department of Justice and Community Safety (including Courts) and DHHS Child Protection to prioritise local issues within the broader reform of the family violence system. Committees may also include mental health, alcohol and other drug services, housing and homelessness services, sexual assault services, community legal services, disability services, community and women’s health services, culturally and linguistically diverse services and relevant government departments (including education).

Each FVRIC is supported by a principal strategic advisor (PSA). PSAs provide strategic leadership in steering regional integration initiatives and supporting priorities set out in the FVRIC strategic plan. Their role involves driving the local implementation of key family violence reforms, building partnerships and collaborating across sectors, building professionals’ capability and providing insight into operations, issues, functions and opportunities in their region.

Statewide, the FVRICs and PSAs are taking active steps to support framework organisations within the portfolio, and in the wider sector, in their alignment to MARAM. For example, the Bayside Peninsula FVRIC has established a MARAM Advisory Group and engaged a consultant to support agency wide alignment with MARAM. The Northern Integrated FVRIC re-established a System Reform Implementation Working Group in February 2019 to include a focus on alignment with MARAM and The Orange Door.

The Family Violence Child Protection Partnership

The Family Violence Child Protection Partnership places specialist family violence services in each of the 17 DHHS areas.

Through the Partnership, the child protection workforce has access to secondary consultations from specialist family violence practitioners across all stages of engagement with a family. In 2018–19, there were 4,366 specialist family violence consultations through the Partnership.

The specialist family violence practitioner also facilitates referral for a family member, or assists child protection to make a referral to a local or statewide specialist family violence service provider. The SFVP provides comprehensive knowledge of:

  • local and statewide family violence service providers for men, women and children
  • referral pathways
  • up-to-date waitlists for these services
  • protocols for referral into these services

Collaborative practice in action

The positive and long-term impact of collaborative practice between Child Protection and a Family Violence service was evident in the joint work done with a mother having physical disabilities and her two children, one of whom is autistic. All three of them were victim survivors of family violence with the children acutely aware of the violence and living in a remote regional area was an additional barrier for seeking services. Facilitated by the Specialist Family Violence Practitioner, the CP team and the FV service in the region came together along with other services to support the mother and her children based on the assessed risk and their needs. Child protection engaged with the father and the information supported risk management strategies. The children now remain safely with the protective parent, the mother and services are continuing to work with her on long-term safety.

Partnerships to ensure holistic support for Aboriginal Victorians

Specialist frontline family violence services for Aboriginal Victorians have developed collaborative partnerships to support victim survivors of family violence to be safe, to recover and thrive; and concurrently to support behaviour change for men who use violence. The three services that are partnering are:

  • Dardi Munwarro — funded by DJCS and FSV for a range of healing and behaviour change programs for Aboriginal men in Victoria. Their work is about creating safe places, so that healing and behaviour change can take place in a non-shaming environment
  • Djirra — funded by DJCS and FSV to provide family violence services and legal advice. Djirra has established safe consulting spaces for Aboriginal women to receive culturally safe trauma-informed counselling, where disclosure and consent is managed with sensitivity, respect and confidentially
  • Elizabeth Morgan House — funded by FSV to deliver secure refuge accommodation and specialist family violence support to Aboriginal women and their children

Informal collaborative practice

Sector grants working groups

Two working groups have been established arising out of the sector grants — the MARAMIS Sector Capacity Building Working Group and the MARAMIS Sector Capacity Building Aboriginal Working Group.

The working groups were developed to enable cross-sector support and collaboration at the level of peak organisations to aid cross-sector implementation and alignment activities.

The Aboriginal working group specifically addresses the unique challenges posed for the Aboriginal community in aligning to MARAM.

Significant collaborative work has been undertaken, including sector scoping by way of surveys and discussions with member organisations and other stakeholders, to determine what the barriers to information sharing and alignment are both within and outside of organisations.

Through this work, collaborative practice between peak bodies in different sectors is growing. This began with a common language and shared understanding of family violence, and is now progressing to greater trust and understanding of other sectors, a sharing of tailored resources and addressing system-wide challenges arising from implementation.

Koori Justice Unit

KJU’s Senior Program Officer Strengthening Cultural Safety worked closely with both Dardi Munwurro and Djirra to promote consistent and collaborative practice across MARAM and the FVIS Scheme.

Collaborative partnerships have been established between Dardi Munwurro, Djirra and Elizabeth Morgan House (Elizabeth Morgan House delivers secure refuge accommodation and specialist family violence support to Aboriginal women and their children).

Djirra is currently examining the potential for a community of practice to strengthen the relationship with the Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Association (VACSAL), the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), and the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) as the three prominent ACCOs delivering complementary services that intersect with family violence.

An example implementation activity arising out of sector grants is this collaborative piece between Justice Health and Berry Street.

Berry Street Case Study

A case study of interactions between Berry Street and Justice Health
Berry Street Case Study

Berry Street and Justice Health Case Study

Situation

Jane, a specialist family violence caseworker at Berry Street, had a client who, with her young daughter, feared further family violence after her ex-partner's release from prison.

Berry Street is a risk assessment entity (or RAE) under the FVIS and CIS Schemes, and therefore, Jane can request and receive relevant information for family violence assessment and protection purposes.

Together with her client, Jane (the caseworker) decided to request information from Justice Health as part of a comprehensive risk assessment and management plan.  

Action

Jane requested the following information about her client's ex-partner (the perpetrator) from Justice Health:

  • mental health assessments, diagnoses, and engagement with treatment
  • information on his involvement in alcohol and other drug programs, and broader services
  • identified risk factors, such as fixation on or homicidal thoughts towards the victim survivors
  • any signs of responsibility or remorse

Outcome

Justice Health received this request from Jane and shared relevant information, such as mental health assessments and medication history.

Jane's client felt relieved that there were trained professionals assessing and managing her ex-partner's mental health.  She also felt more confident that services were looking out for risks to the safety of her and her daughter.  

Jane included the information provided by Justice Health as part of a comprehensive risk assessment that confirmed the perpetrator posed a significant threat to the client and her daughter.  This led to ongoing information sharing and risk management, including an enhanced safety plan for Jane's client and her daughter.  

Download Berry Street Case Study

DJCS Youth Justice

The Youth Parole Board Secretariat is working to introduce a new, MARAM-aligned parole plan template to the client information system used by Youth Justice. The Youth Parole Board Secretariat has also established collaborative arrangements with the Priority Communities Division in Victoria Police to support a consistent and collaborative approach to family violence risk assessment and management.

Corrections Victoria and Victoria Police

Between October 2018 to March 2019, a series of roadshows were undertaken in prisons with members of the Victoria Police Family Violence Command. The roadshows were aimed at discussing adoption of Managing family violence guidelines for prisons, the opportunities for improvement and importantly the value of reporting incidents and proactively sharing information with Victoria Police. This has helped highlight how Corrections Victoria has an ability to hold a perpetrator to account by collecting evidence of breaches to intervention orders while in custody that no longer require a victim to own the burden of reporting.

Corrections Victoria communities of practice

Corrections Victoria has collaborated with the DJCS Regional Service Network to establish Family Violence Communities of Practice. The Family Violence Communities of Practice consist of family violence information sharing super users. The super users include 110 regional champions and subject experts in all prisons and CCS locations, Corrections Victoria Risk Assessment and Management Panel members and Area Strategic Advisers of regions.

The purpose of the communities of practice is to raise implementation and embedding issues in the FVIS Scheme and discuss opportunities for system improvement that could be raised at inter-agency forums.

Over time, the communities of practice members have provided insights that have led to case study examples and one-page cheat sheet resources.

Communities of practice among Aboriginal organisations

Djirra is currently examining the potential for a community of practice to strengthen the relationship with the Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Association (VACSAL), the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO), and the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) as the three prominent ACCOs delivering complementary services that intersect with family violence.

Reviewed 26 February 2020

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