Safe and Equal, Victoria’s peak body for specialist family violence services calls for an urgent uplift in funding for the specialist family violence services sector in the 2022 State Budget.
Whilst the significant amount of investment in improving Victoria’s family violence system following the Royal Commission is much welcomed, a range of complex factors are creating clear gaps and pressure points. These must be addressed immediately to ensure every victim survivor can access the support and safety they need at the time they need it.
In Victoria, specialist family violence services are not funded at a level that meets increasing demand. The lack of funding not only impacts victim survivors but also results in high levels of staff turnover and burnout, with extreme difficulties recruiting and retaining experienced staff.
Workers face constant job insecurity due to short-term contracts and are often paid less than those working in other community sectors. Increases in community awareness and pathways to support have further increased demand for services, creating rising pressure within the system as services struggle to keep up with an ever-growing client base, and an unprecedented number of high-risk and complex cases due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic that require more time and resources.
“The demand for specialist family violence services is at an all-time high and the lack of funding is having a significant impact on not only the capacity of these services to support victim survivors, but the wellbeing of the workers who support them.Although the impact of COVID has contributed to strain on these services, the identified gaps and needs outlined in our submission should not come as a surprise to the state government. Specialist family violence worker capacity, emergency accommodation and services for children and young people are historical issues that require urgent attention.” – Tania Farha, CEO, Safe and Equal.
With current Victorian refuge capacity limited to accommodating 160 households at one time, and growing numbers of victim survivors requiring emergency accommodation, the availability of flexible crisis, transitional and long-term housing is integral to managing complex risk and keeping victim survivors safe from their perpetrators.
“It’s so difficult [for] the workers to be able to support [victim survivors] in that space when they have no stability and no safe space to sleep, or they don’t know where they are going to be next week.” – Team Leader, specialist family violence service.
A lack of clarity, consistency and resourcing in response to children and young people experiencing family violence is also a critical gap that must be addressed. Funding and structural limitations and a lack of minimum standards means the system is struggling to provide tailored, specialist responses to children and young people as victim survivors in their own right.
The complexity of family violence work means it is vital the sector maintains a high-quality, specialist function. This includes the retention of a highly skilled and healthy workforce, the embedding of lived experience across all system responses, and peak body support and coordination to support workforce development, access and inclusion, and data capabilities.
Safe and Equal’s budget submission to the Victorian Government calls for urgent funding to support several areas:
- An uplift of core funding for all specialist family violence services to sustain and respond to increasing demand.
- A 20% increase in funding levels allocated to infrastructure costs to enable all specialist family violence services to meet the prerequisites of contemporary community organisations.
- The immediate implementation of a fit-for-purpose, flexible costing model.
- An immediate increase in crisis accommodation places to enable 320 households to be accommodated on any night. We also call for the prioritisation of 1000 dwellings for victim survivors of family violence to be built immediately as part of Victoria’s Big Housing Build, and a greater proportion of new social housing to be set aside for victim survivors of family violence in recognition of the proportion of people seeking support from supported housing services as a result of family violence.
- Immediate funding to boost the specialist support provided to children and young people experiencing family violence. This includes the creation of a best practice framework for supporting children and young people along with additional 17 specialist practitioners to champion and lead best practice approaches to working with children and young people.
- The creation of an ongoing Healthy Worker Fund (HWF) to support the health and well-being of the specialist family violence workforce.
- The creation of an Embedding Lived Experience Fund (ELEF) to support the uptake and implementation of the Experts By Experience Framework.
- Additional resourcing for sector coordination, capacity building and professional development to support innovation, best practice and sustainability of specialist family violence services.
If adequately funded, the areas outlined above will enable the specialist family violence sector to respond to not just increasing levels of demand and client complexity but to a rapidly changing service environment stemming from the unprecedented level of government and systemic reform.