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Joint initiative works to counter FDV

Police and Salvation Army Joint initiative Taskforce Alexis

The Salvation Army Crisis Services in St Kilda is proud to note the success to date of ‘Integrated Response Team Initiative – Taskforce Alexis: Key Worker Initiative’.

Taskforce Alexis aims to reduce recidivist family violence and to achieve responsibility and accountability among recidivist offenders. The pilot project achieves this aim by providing a cross-sectorial coordinated response to high-risk recidivist family violence, within the local government areas (LGAs) of Port Phillip, Stonnington, Glen Eira, Bayside and Kingston.

Family violence outreach program manager* Alice Coakes explains to e-connect that, ‘from 8 December 2014, our family violence key worker, Rosanne, funded by The Salvation Army, has been embedded in a police team for this project.

‘It is a unique situation having a sole FV specialist worker fully embedded in a police unit, as most multi-disciplinary teams take a co-location approach. The difference with Taskforce Alexis is that they are all part of the same team and working towards the same goal. The project also has a mental health worker from Monash Health who works as part of the team.

‘And as of late July, Rosanne has worked with 59 adults and 53 children. Of the adults she has worked with, 47 have been the affected family member and 12 have been “respondents” – it is highly unusual for a family violence worker to work with both the affected family member and the respondent  in a family violence situation. However, if assessed as safe to do so and beneficial for the reduction of recividism and increased safety of women and children, our key-worker has this capacity.**

‘Of the 47 individuals who are the affected family member, 45 were women and two were men. The majority of [the police’s] respondents were male.’

The overall engagement with people has been a marked improvement for Taskforce Alexis.

While the L17 report system works extremely well for a percentage of family violence incidences/women, Crisis Services notes that there is still a large number of women and children for whom this method of referral into the family violence service system is not successful.

'There were 3,500 police referrals, or L17s, last year... we realised the need for a more assertive, integrated way of engaging with these families. Some 78% of families, almost four of every five families, that Rosanne has worked with, have successfully engaged with Taskforce Alexis and her. The previous engagement for these families through the L17 response was 36% (just over one in three families).

‘The downside of that 64% of L17s is that they did not answer the phone, or we did not have the number to call them, or they declined support, or a male answered twice. That meant that it was not safe for the female who was the affected family member for us to continue calling the number.’

Alice reflects that ‘the safety of women and children is paramount in any intervention by police or the service system. Working with them to achieve this is extremely important. We are finding in order to reduce the recidivism, it is important to engage the “respondent” and to encourage accountability for the use of violence.’

The aim of the intervention by Taskforce Alexis is to reduce repeated offences; it is mentioned in several submissions in the state’s Royal Commission, including those of the police, networks, peak bodies and The Salvation Army.

Daily, Rosanne and police meet together to triage all family violence incidents, to determine where the Taskforce and Rosanne's interventions will be most successful; the Taskforce Alexis police member and FV key worker then meet with the identified families as soon as possible after the last reported incident.

Another crucial element is a monthly coordination team, bringing together support services such as child protection, AOD services, corrections, family services and other FV providers. This meeting ensures a coordinated response to the family, thus maximising the potential for a successful reduction in recidivism and increased safety for women and children.

‘By working so closely with clients and families, and collecting comprehensive data,’ Alice explains, ‘Taskforce Alexis allows us to realise not just how many people are impacted but also what is happening in their lives and how effective our intervention is.

The timeframe

The project is wholly funded through The Salvation Army, through The Salvation Army Crisis Services programs at St Kilda. Taskforce Alexis is implemented as a 12-month project but it ideally should be a three-year project. The project is simultaneously undergoing action research evaluation by Dr Anastasia Powell and Dr Lisa Harris of RMIT University.

* Ms Coakes is program manager for Crisis Services’ Family Violence Services
** The term affected family member refers to the person who has experienced FDV. The term respondent is the term police use to refer to the person who is believed to have inflicted the FDV.