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Focus area 3: Recruiting and retaining specialist workforces

The people who work in the specialist response and primary prevention sectors are our most valuable assets in building a future where all Victorians can live free from violence. Strengthening the capacity of the system to meet the current and future demands for specialist family violence and prevention practitioners is a duty we owe not only to these workers, but to the victim survivors they support.

Since the Royal Commission, the specialist response and primary prevention sectors have grown rapidly – and this is likely to continue. Labour market forecasting indicates that over the five years from 2017, the health and social assistance industry,  in which the specialist sectors are primarily embedded, will be the fastest growing industry in the state.5 This plan addresses current supply challenges as well as the need to build a sustainable pipeline for the future with clear pathways into the sector for students and workers from other sectors. Growth needs to be sustainable and geared towards achieving a stable, confident, supported, experienced and engaged workforce.

Bringing new people into the specialist sectors is only one part of the picture. This plan will also address the factors that keep someone in a workforce. For the specialist family violence and primary prevention sectors, there are significant challenges in relation to remuneration - including inconsistency between the salaries of specialist family violence practitioners and comparable roles in other community services - and in employment arrangements.6 Insecure and fixed-term funding is linked to project-based roles, which can have an impact on attraction and retention, and workers in the sector have identified a lack of opportunity for career progression.

These issues are complex and will take time to work through. Progress to date has been hampered by a lack of data. The 2017 Census went some way to addressing the gap, but there is a need for targeted work in the first year of this plan to build a robust evidence base. This will then inform work in the second and third year of this plan, and in future Rolling Action Plans.

Three years on from the Royal Commission, there is a need to understand what work in the specialist sectors looks like, with new service models, new ways of working and an increased commitment to cultural safety and responding to intersectionality and diversity. Research in the first year of this plan will examine roles in the specialist sectors and consider current and future system requirements while also contributing to the evidence base about remuneration, conditions and pathways.

Why it’s important

  • Workforce supply is a significant issue for the specialist sectors. To meet future workforce requirements, a pipeline of dedicated, skilled and diverse practitioners is required. It is likely that referrals to the family violence response sector will increase (resulting from broader workforces being better supported to respond to family violence) resulting in an increase in demand for this workforce. At the same time, a greater supply of prevention practitioners will be required to reduce family violence in the long-term and alleviate pressure on crisis responses.
  • Specialist workforces must reflect the diversity of the Victorian community. There is an urgent need to grow the Aboriginal workforce and an increasing need to attract more men into specialist roles. There are challenges in attracting and retaining practitioners from diverse, rural and regional communities to the workforce.
  • Organisations require greater support to offer valuable student placements, to build a strong workforce pipeline. The 2017 Census showed that almost one in four family violence response and prevention practitioners were studying, completing a student placement or volunteering at their organisation prior to commencing employment.7

Strengthening the Foundations outcomes 

  1. Detailed workforce data, analytics and best practice research are available to support more strategic decisions and approaches relating to workforce planning, attraction and recruitment, career pathways, working conditions and employment arrangements (including remuneration) to improve attraction and retention.
  2. Organisations and sectors have improved capacity for student placements and graduate transition programs, to support a pipeline for workers who are supported to provide high quality services.
  3. Organisations and government have a sophisticated understanding of inclusion strategies that support the attraction, recruitment, retention and engagement of a diverse, intersectional workforce, which better reflects the rich diversity of the Victorian community and meets the needs of all Victorians.

Key foundational priorities to support this focus area:

To ensure work on recruiting and retaining specialist workforces is built on a deep understanding of specialist family violence prevention and response work in a reformed family violence system, this plan focuses on initiatives that:

  • Improve workforce data to create the foundation on which the design and delivery of actions to recruit and retain specialist workforces can be based.
  • Identify future workforce requirements, providing the basis for work on attraction, recruitment, capability building and retention in the specialist prevention and response sectors.
  • Focus on immediate and short-term attraction and recruitment.

Actions

3.1 Deliver the Workforce Estimates project to improve understanding of the size and location of the specialist response and prevention workforces, and inform strategic planning, training and development initiatives.

3.2 Undertake the 2019 Census of Workforces that Intersect with Family Violence.

3.3 Undertake research on role design in the specialist sectors and develop options for current and future system requirements. This research will consider related pieces of work including the review of case management, perpetrator interventions and the Orange Door service model, as well as workforce diversity and employment opportunities to embed lived experience of victim survivors.

3.4 Undertake research into the size, skills and qualifications, location and background of the specialist primary prevention workforce. This research will support the design of actions to address the particular and unique workforce supply, capability and other workforce issues experienced by the prevention workforce.

3.5 Undertake a study into remuneration and conditions across the specialist family violence sector and (where appropriate) related community services to form an evidence base for industry’s future work.

3.6 Continue to deliver the Enhanced Pathways to Family Violence Work project, which facilitates student placements in community services sector organisations, including specialist family violence services, and investigate opportunities to extend its reach into the prevention sector.

3.7 Undertake a targeted recruitment campaign for specialist family violence response and prevention workforces.

3.8 Reduce workforce entry barriers to increase workforce diversity, working towards achieving a workforce that reflects the community.

3.9 Develop a workforce forecasting model for the specialist sectors.

3.10 Develop and implement initiatives to address workforce supply challenges in regional areas.

3.11 Work across the community services sector over the life of this plan to develop qualifications and training that support mobility across specialist community services areas.

Supporting the specialist family violence response workforce

Around 2,000 workers make up Victoria’s specialist family violence response workforce. This includes those working with victim survivors and those delivering perpetrator interventions, and those in specialist family violence roles embedded in broader systems.

The Government’s ambitious family violence reform agenda has been welcomed by these workers, who know better than anyone how desperately the system needed to change. However, there is no doubt that increased awareness of family violence and new ways of working across the system have increased the pressure on this committed and professional sector. For example:

  • Reported breaches of family violence intervention orders have more than doubled in the five years from 2013 to 2018
  • Technology is being used in new ways to threaten, control and cause fear
  • New investment has doubled the number of places available in community-based perpetrator programs to 4,000 per year, and boosted case management and therapeutic responses for victim survivors, with over 9,000 family violence case management services provided each year

Over the life of this plan, it is anticipated that the specialist family violence response workforce will need to double. It’s crucial then, that the specialist workforce is supported to grow, and that a strong pipeline is in place to meet future demand for highly skilled specialist workers. To be competitive in this industry, the specialist family violence sector will need to be able to offer its workers recognition, security and opportunities to grow and develop. This plan, and the ones to follow, will address the factors that support the sector to sustain and grow its workforce, and to attract skilled and committed workers into the future.

Forecasting how and where the specialist family violence response and prevention workforces need to grow requires an understanding of multiple factors. A deeper sense of the specialist family violence workforce at a general and local level is needed so that workforce planning is more nuanced. This work will culminate in better insight into the size and locations of these workforces and the environments they service.

We know that long lasting workforce reform investment takes time. A strong foundation needs to be able to withstand future pressures placed upon it. Growth needs to be sustainable and geared towards achieving a stable, confident, supported, experienced and engaged workforce.

Preventing family violence is a long-term vision

Around 316 primary prevention practitioners work across Victoria to prevent violence from happening in the first place. Primary prevention works by identifying the deep underlying causes of violence – the social norms, structures and practices that influence individual attitudes and behaviours – and acting across the whole population to change these, not just the behaviours of perpetrators.

An effective primary prevention approach is essential to support and complement early intervention and response efforts activities by reducing pressure on these other parts of the system. Over the life of this plan, the primary prevention workforce will need to grow significantly.

Primary prevention practice is an emerging field in Victoria. The needs of this workforce and the long-term impact it might have on the workforce requirements of the response sector requires detailed consideration in workforce supply modelling. This modelling will be undertaken as part of this plan.

Forecasting how and where the specialist family violence response and prevention workforces need to grow requires an understanding of multiple factors. A deeper sense of the specialist family violence workforce at a general and local level is needed so that workforce planning is more nuanced. This work will culminate in better insight into the size and locations of these workforces and the environments they service.

We know that long lasting workforce reform investment takes time. A strong foundation needs to be able to withstand future pressures placed upon it. Growth needs to be sustainable and geared towards achieving a stable, confident, supported, experienced and engaged workforce.

"This is an opportunity – it’s the moment. We’ll look back and say, ‘this was the turning point." - Stakeholder, Attraction and Recruitment campaign research phase, 2019

Reviewed 24 November 2019

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