Legal Aid NSW published their Annual Report for 2017-18 today, revealing another 14 per cent increase in domestic violence service responses.
Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services (WDVCASs), which provide the primary specialist domestic violence response in NSW, now support nearly 44,000 women who have experienced domestic and family violence state-wide – a figure which has almost doubled in just four years, despite funding only increasing by around 25 per cent.
Since the introduction of the NSW Government’s Safer Pathway reforms in 2015, WDVCASs have offered specialist support to all female victims where a police incident has been recorded, as well as those referred by other government and non-government agencies for support. WDVCASs also coordinate a highly successful multi-agency response, in partnership with NSW Police Force, Corrective Services, Health, Family and Community Services, Education, and other key non-government agencies. This response centres around fortnightly Safety Action Meetings which occur in 43 locations throughout the state for the purpose of increasing the safety and reducing the risk of death or serious harm to women and children resulting from domestic and family violence.
The WDVCAS Program, encompassing Safer Pathway, is administered by the ‘Premier’s Award’ winning WDVCAP Unit at Legal Aid NSW which provides comprehensive program management services to the WDVCASs, including professional training and development, mentoring and support.
The independent evaluation of the WDVCAS Program undertaken by Allwood and Associates this year found ‘WDVCASs offer value-for-money for the NSW Government, due to the effective management of high volumes of clients, the program coverage... across NSW, and the efficiencies of scale supporting... quality and consistency'. However, recommended a strategic expansion into the case management of clients to ensure women and their children are provided with the appropriate supports to navigate the various legal and court processes and other essential supports to achieve recovery and a life free from violence.
‘An expansion of the Safer Pathway model into case management would enable the full benefits of the integrated service model to be realised’ says WDVCAS NSW Director, Hayley Foster. ‘Women would be supported to navigate the legal and service systems for themselves and their children from woe-to-go, resulting in both improved experiences and better outcomes.’
WDVCAS NSW has been joining forces with other domestic, family and sexual violence peaks and specialist organisations as part of a Women’s Alliance, calling on political parties to support a comprehensive approach to addressing violence against women and their children under the banner of the ‘Safe State’ campaign.
The funding of WDVCASs to provide case management services to women is one of the recommendations of this campaign.
‘This is not just about saving lives,’ says Ms Foster. ‘This is about ensuring we break the cycle of violence. We have the infrastructure in place to support women and children to be safe in their homes and communities right across NSW. Now it just needs to be harnessed.’
About WDVCAS NSW
WDVCAS NSW is the peak representative body for the 29 WDVCASs across NSW. WDVCAS NSW advocates on systemic issues impacting upon women and children who have experienced domestic and family violence through legislative, policy and practice reform.
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