If you have a client who is experiencing family violence (or who you believe to be at risk of family violence), you may need to refer them to a service that can provide specialist support.
What is a referral?
A referral is the process of connecting someone to information or services that fall outside of your service’s area of expertise or specialisation.
Discussing referral options
When working with someone who is experiencing family violence, it’s important to understand they are the expert of their own experience and to give them as much choice and control as possible.
Before making a referral, or providing any information to another individual or agency, it’s important to get the client’s consent to make the referral and share the information, and to explain why the information is required.
When discussing referral options with a victim survivor, you should:
- Acknowledge and respect their identity and unique needs (including their culture, family, priorities, concerns, and levels of trauma and risk).
- Promote their agency and choice – work together to explore what information they want shared and respect their views on the organisations you are considering referring them to. If it’s appropriate, fill out the referral forms together.
- Let them know that you will send relevant information to another service and ensure you get consent. Victorian privacy legislation still applies, however the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme (FVISS) allows an agency to seek or give information for the purpose of family violence risk assessment or risk management. See the FVISS page to find out whether the scheme is relevant to you.
- Acknowledge the efforts they have made to prevent or minimise the harm they or their child have experienced.
- Validate their experience in a way that doesn’t judge them and allows them to access your service in the future.
- Recognise unique barriers that they may face in accessing services (such as discrimination, physical barriers, language barriers or a lack of trust in particular services).
Finding a service
Specialist family violence services operate across Victoria and some specialise in working with clients from particular communities (such as refugee and migrant communities).
If you are unsure whether a victim survivor should be referred to a particular service, contact the organisation to ask about service eligibility, whether the service can meet the victim survivor’s identified needs and is accessible.
- Key statewide services
- Victorian specialist family violence services
Making a referral
It is generally more effective, and useful to the client, to provide an assisted referral (sometimes called a ‘warm’ referral) rather than simply giving them a contact number. To do this, call the service on behalf of your client to establish if it’s appropriate to refer them.
Often agencies have a referral process that requires the referring worker/agency to complete a referral information form. With the victim survivor’s knowledge and approval, you can share their information so that they do not have to re-tell their story. Where possible you should complete the referral form with the victim survivor, so they are aware of what information you are sharing. This also reinforces with them that they have control of how their information is used.
In the case of sharing perpetrator information, consent is not required under the FVISS when it is required to inform family violence risk assessment or risk management. Visit the Victorian Government website for guidance about sharing family violence information under the scheme.
Most services have a policy of speaking to the client directly after receiving a referral. They will talk about the referral and ask any additional questions that are required to support the referral process and decision making. However, this should not mean the victim survivor needs to provide the same information again.
All family violence referrals either from or to a family violence agency should be accompanied by the relevant MARAM risk assessment information. This could be either a copy of the completed form or a summary of the risk assessment including identification of level of risk, and key risk factor and risk mitigation strategies employed successfully or unsuccessfully.
Specialist family violence practitioners and other Tier 1 professionals are required to complete a Comprehensive Family Violence Risk Assessment. Tier 2 and 3 professionals, such as alcohol and other drugs workers, are required to complete an Intermediate Family Violence Assessment. The ‘Decision guide for MARAM responsibilities’ describes the MARAM legislative responsibilities for all tiers of workers. For more information, see MARAM practice guides and resources.
In some areas, referrals to family violence services must go through The Orange Door in your area, not through the family violence service directly. Visit ‘The Orange Door – information for sector’ for more information and to see if The Orange Door is open in your local area.
After the referral
After completing a referral, it’s a good idea to follow up with the client and gain feedback about the referral to ensure it was effective. Follow up can facilitate engagement and ensure any issues are addressed.