Safe at Home

Over the last few years, McAuley has been advocating for an approach to family violence called ‘Safe at Home.’ This would transform the default system where women ‘escape’ violence and become homeless: instead they are supported to stay home or in their communities safely, while ensuring accountability for the person using violence.

Safe at Home is an innovative, rapid response for households affected by family violence that will reduce homelessness for women and children by intervening early and providing the right supports, enabling victim-survivors to stay safely in their chosen home and community and, provide people using violence, support to stop.

Not only does this approach move away from victims being saddled with all the disadvantages of leaving – including the loss of communities, schools and workplaces etc – but would significantly reduce homelessness across Victoria.

The current system

In Victoria, family violence is the single largest driver of homelessness for women (AIHW, 2021). Our current systems are designed to support victim survivors to escape violence by leaving the family home. This means women and children in secure housing may not be offered the choice and support to stay in their home when their safety is threatened: instead, many escape into over-burdened emergency accommodation and refuge services with little hope of accessing affordable housing.

In 2020-21, 32,203 adult Victorian women and 11,958 children presented at specialist homelessness services because of family violence – during this period, the average waiting time for priority applicants (including people escaping family violence) for housing was 15.2 months (DFFH, 2022).

What is needed?

Keeping women and children safe and at home requires us to take action to stop family violence and provide targeted support to avoid homelessness. ‘Safe at Home’ responses support women and children who have experienced family violence to remain safely in their home and community, or a home and community of their choice – avoiding the difficult journey through refuge and specialist homelessness services. Women and children will be able to remain in their schools and workplaces with access to their established support networks.

Research suggests an effective Safe at Home approach requires:

  • Fast access to support without victim-survivors having to undergo multiple assessments and tell their story repeatedly.
  • Coordinated, integrated and holistic support that is tailored to victim-survivor needs and includes working with people using violence to help them stop and hold them accountable.
  • Enhancing women’s economic security – financial management, legal advice and employment support enable women and their children to remain independent and separate from the person using violence.

What is McAuley doing?

McAuley has worked with sector partners to co-design a pilot of Safe at Home. The model is based on research into what works along with input from local professionals and people with lived experience, including victim-survivors and people who have used violence in the past.

The Safe at Home response is designed to be rapid, flexible, and provide wraparound supports that are tailored to the needs of the whole household. Households have access to support and funding over a period of 24 months, allowing support to flex up and down depending on changing needs.

The team will respond quickly to intervene where there is violence and prevent homelessness. Within 48 hours of referral, the team will contact victim survivors and people using violence to understand individual and household needs and identify initial steps to support safety. Based on the needs of the household members, the core Safe at Home response may include:

  • A family violence case manager to establish a safety plan and identify priority support needs.
  • A specialist worker to keep the person using violence in view and address their support needs, including alternative accommodation options in the short and medium term.

The support team will draw on a larger integrated team of specialists, including legal and financial experts, housing support, children’s workers, cultural workers, and a community engagement role to link clients with universal and community services and help build community capability to support prevention of family violence.

Police and Corrections will provide dedicated roles to liaise with the team and keep the person using violence in view. A lived experience advisory group will support the team’s focus on victim-survivors.

‘Safe at Home’ research

McAuley consulted with women who have used our services, who have become homeless because of family violence. This gave us valuable information about what really happens on the ground and where things are not working well – as well as whether being able to stay home safely could have been an option. Read more about: Listening to those with lived experience.

Together with Melbourne University we also interviewed frontline workers in family violence and homelessness services, gathering a wealth of insights into how the system was operating. Read what this research found. 

Parity April 2023

A special edition of Parity, the journal of the Council to Homeless Persons, explored the issue and canvassed solutions. McAuley was a sponsor of the edition and contributed several articles:

Listening to those with lived experience

‘It’s in McAuley’s DNA’: opinion piece by Jocelyn Bignold OAM

‘The time if right’: re-imagining ‘Safe at Home’

For further information on the ‘Safe at Home’ project, contact:

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