BY CLAIRE CORBEL
Family Safety Victoria is reevaluating the establishment of future domestic abuse support hubs after a recent audit found they are not realising their full potential to improve the lives of family violence victims.
Aimed to address the difficulties faced by domestic violence sufferers in seeking support, the government-funded organisation planned to open hubs around Victoria that would provide comprehensive and easily-accessible services for families in need.
Since 2018, five hubs have been established in Frankston, Geelong, Morwell, Mildura and North Eastern Melbourne.
However, due to a rushed implementation schedule and a lack of detailed planning, an Auditor General’s report found the facilities were opened prematurely and were lacking the infrastructure, detailed planning and staff needed to meet demand.
“Across the five open hubs, Family Safety Victoria has not done enough to support practitioners to give their clients timely, coordinated help,” the report stated.
“Individual hubs have had to develop their own ways to coordinate services, manage demand and share information. These inconsistent approaches mean that clients may receive different services depending on where they live, rather than their needs.”
Kathy Kaplan, founder of the non-profit charity for domestic violence abuse victims, Impact, said it is reasonable to expect The Orange Door to establish improved data-collection methods that will allow them to keep better track of their clients’ needs.
“Every person running those hubs are professionals, not volunteers, and they should be keeping official records to ensure people are receiving proper support,” Ms Kaplan said.
According to the report, none of the first five hubs opened with a full workforce. Bayside, the busiest hub, opened with only half of its full-time positions filled.
This contributed to a backlog of cases, resulting in many people waiting months to receive support.
“The hubs should have reporting parameters and expectations. I think it’s unreasonable and unacceptable if they don’t meet them,” Ms Kaplan said.
The report similarly stated that Family Safety Victoria was not collecting the right information about their clients’ experiences within and beyond the hub, revealing The Orange Door cannot yet demonstrate whether the hubs are actively leading to better outcomes for those seeking its services.
Among these gaps in data also include how the organisation prioritises improvements, monitors serious ongoing risks for clients and keeps sufficient records of referral processes.
“I think hubs are ultimately a really good idea and can be extended in other areas, it’s how they’re put together and how they’re managed that needs to be given careful thought,” Ms Kaplan said.
Family Safety Victoria’s plans for future facilities
CEO of Family Safety Victoria Eleri Butler says the organisation intends to evaluate and address the challenges encountered during the launch of The Orange Door program.
“We have no hesitation in accepting all nine recommendations made by the auditor, as many of these were already identified by our own reviews and feedback,” Ms Butler said.
The Department of Health and Human Services plans to establish 12 more hubs around Victoria by 2021, prompting a revaluation of approaches to managing demand.
“Having joined the Family Safety Victoria team only recently, I know how ground-breaking this work is. The Orange Door is a new way for people to access help and support, and we’re working in ways that have never been done before,” Ms Butler said.
Family hubs ultimately a great solution in theory
The Orange Door is about keeping families safe as they get the help they need in a secure, welcoming place, said Minister for Prevention of Family Violence Gabrielle Williams.
“It is transforming the way Victorians access family violence support services, helping them find support before a situation reaches crisis point,” Ms Williams said in a statement.
Ms Kaplan said the idea of having multiple services collated within a hub is a convenient and fantastic idea in theory.
“But the reality is, with only so many hours in a day and a certain amount of funding, the question comes down to whether the government is serious about providing these hubs or whether it is a tokenistic solution,” she said.
Help is also available through 1800RESPECT or by calling 1800 737 732.