Peak body urges budget response to flawed family violence service funding model

An ever-increasing demand for family violence services coupled with an outdated funding system, unmet infrastructure costs and high levels of staff fatigue and stress should be urgent priority areas for government funding, according to a State Budget submission by Domestic Violence Victoria.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified pre-existing issues for specialist family violence services working with victim-survivors, with marked increase in demand for services, growing complexity of client need, high rates of burn out for specialist practitioners, and the increased costs of providing services remotely.” said DV Vic and DVRCV CEO Tania Farha.

“The Andrews Government has demonstrated a strong commitment to a coordinated response to family violence in Victoria. We commend the investment into ground-breaking reforms in the five years since the Royal Commission into Family Violence, which is forever changing the family violence system for the better. In particular, we’ve seen the system’s capacity to triage and assess risk grow significantly. To achieve the long-term vision of the Royal Commission, we must ensure that all elements of this system are funded adequately and sustainably, and right now, specialist services supporting victim-survivors are beyond capacity,” said Ms Farha.

The state’s peak body for specialist family violence services for victim-survivors has outlined measures to address serious deficits that are preventing the sector from meeting the needs of people experiencing family violence.

It has also proposed an initiative to bring together data sources, to address the current absence of a ‘whole story’ picture of demand in the family violence system including access points, blockages and waiting lists for services.

The submission urges budget attention on four key areas;

  • An overhaul of the restrictive and inadequate funding model that has for decades hindered the efforts of community organisations to support victim survivors to regain safety and hold perpetrators to account. Extra funding that was designated to help respond to COVID-19 has been needed to service a backlog of existing referrals. A significant budget spend is needed to account for the pandemic’s ongoing effects on family violence levels, given that the sector was underfunded to operate properly at pre-pandemic levels.
  • Critical infrastructure costs to sustain quality service provision including staff recruitment and retention, health and safety measures, quality and compliance regime costs, and technological and data management systems.
  • An ongoing healthy worker fund to support the wellbeing of specialist family violence sector staff contending with the increased demand for services and complexity of cases.
  • Funding for a one-year project to explore influences on demand by assessing available data and identifying gaps in data collection.

View the full budget submission.