Funding incoming to alleviate crisis accommodation pressures

McAuley chief executive Jocelyn Bignold. Picture by Adam Trafford

Solutions are on the horizon to alleviate pressures on crisis accommodation for women leaving family violence – but the government is yet to announce important details.

McAuley Community Services for Women want to turn the system on its head, intervening early and working out a system where victim-survivors and children are able to stay in the family home.

The Courier spoke to a McAuley House Ballarat resident Mary*, who found the constant shuffling from different crisis accommodation locations stressful and tiring.

Often, because of funding constraints, crisis accommodation is only available for a maximum of two weeks.

On May 30, the state government announced support for McAuley’s Safe@Home program amid a number of other changes to help reform law processes and prevent family violence.

Ideally McAuley would like to run a trial, but details about how much support or what it will cover are scarce.

Premier Jacinta Allan said there would be an additional “significant announcement” for Ballarat soon.

The government could not give any more details but wanted to recognise “the hurt in the community”.

How to reduce pressure on crisis accommodation

McAuley chief executive Jocelyn Bignold said she was delighted to see the Safe@Home program on the radar of the state government.

She said family violence is the largest single driver of homelessness for women.

The Safe@Home program would offer early intervention for both the victim/survivor and perpetrator, allowing them space to reassess their situation.

“We need to get in at a point when … she’s starting to feel very uncomfortable in her circumstances so that we can talk through what her options are and talk him through what’s going on,” Ms Bignold said.

It would not work for everyone, she said, and safety is always the number one priority. But the current system was not working.

Reducing the time spent in crisis accommodation as well as emergency presentations would also save money in the long run.

The next steps for Safe@Home would be to run a trial in Geelong.

Ms Bignold said the missing link would be organisations which work with perpetrators.

This is why McAuley will partner with non-for-profit organisation Meli for the Geelong trial.

Once McAuley learns from the trial, Ms Bignold hopes to run the program in other areas, depending on the support available in different regions.

* Mary’s name has been changed to protect her identity

This story was written by Nieve Walton from The Ballarat Courier. Photography courtesy of Adam Trafford.