Ministerial group launches new family violence work programme

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Justice Minister Amy Adams and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley have launched a new work programme on family and sexual violence.

The work programme is detailed in a Cabinet paper, Progress on the Work Programme of the Ministerial Group on Family Violence and Sexual Violence. Summaries are provided in a Beehive media release (29 July 2015) and associated Media Q&As - Family violence work programme.

The family violence work programme brings together the two separate work streams of Achieving Intergenerational Change (Ministry of Social Development) and the Stronger Response to Family Violence (Ministry of Justice). It also encompasses the work undertaken by the Ministerial Group on Family and Sexual Violence, made up of 16 Ministers and Associate Ministers.

Earlier in 2015, the Ministerial Group commissioned work from officials to quantify the current government spend on family violence. The stocktake found the government spends an estimated $1.4 billion each year responding to family and sexual violence. A breakdown is provided in the paper.

The Cabinet paper states, “Most of this spend is on core services, delivered to address the immediate impacts of a violent incident having occurred (for example Police call-outs, hospital admissions and GP services) and prison costs. Only a small proportion of total spending is directed to specialist family violence and sexual violence services, with the largest proportion of the specialist spend being on child abuse and neglect. In addition, we learned that, while prevalence rates are high and reporting rates are low, only a small proportion is spent on primary prevention and screening.”

Ministers also highlighted concerns the review raised for them, including that:

  • "The current 'system' is therefore a default one, rather than a planned one
  • There appears to be some duplication in roles and services
  • Spending is not always aligned with effectiveness in achieving outcomes or client need."

The Ministerial Group Work Programme takes a three-tiered approach: (1) a systems-level framework, (2) intervention area analysis and (3) service level reviews.

They state “The system framework includes, among other things, developing shared definitions, outcomes framework and indicators, a workforce framework, and a research and evaluation agenda. The intervention analysis and service level reviews analyse and evaluate the services and support currently provided to victims, perpetrators, families, whānau and communities in the areas of primary prevention, identification and initial assessment, incident response and immediate safety, and follow-up response (long-term recovery).”

The Ministerial group replaces the Taskforce for Action on Violence within Families, which has been disestablished. The Taskforce included representation by NGOs, whereas the Ministerial group does not. In place of that, the Ministers plan to:

  • “seek strategic input from key sector groups. Officials will begin this process by discussing the overall approach, including the Work Programme, with key stakeholders including the Ministry of Social Development’s Māori Reference Group and the Pacific Advisory Group
  • seek specific input from non-government sector individuals and groups who have technical and service level expertise. Agencies leading the intervention area analysis and service level reviews will develop plans to ensure that there is effective input from relevant individuals and groups
  • communicate regularly with stakeholders about the Ministerial Group Work Programme. A communications strategy is being developed that will outline what the Work Programme is, how sector views will be represented, and consultation processes.”

The Ministers note that “while the Ministerial Group Work Programme is a priority, it is resource-intensive. Officials will provide advice to the meeting of the Ministerial Group in July 2015 on whether some components of the proposed work programme will need to be prioritised over others.”

They state that over the next few months, the Government will be examining all parts of the system, and will develop advice, an investment strategy and an action plan, with the first report due to be provided to Cabinet by December 2015. This report back will seek Cabinet’s agreement to:

  • “the realignment of some family and sexual violence services
  • a road map for future realignment of services
  • a plan of action for embedding this whole-of-government approach.”

The paper also confirms that the Ministry of Justice is reviewing the legislation that sets out the response to family violence: the Domestic Violence Act 1995, the Care of Children Act 2004 and the criminal law (e.g. the Bail Act 2000). It may also look at interfaces with relevant provisions of the Privacy Act 1993 and the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989. The public will have the opportunity to submit their views on a range of issues with the current legislation via a discussion document which will be released shortly.

Update - responses to the annoucement

The Green Party called for the Government’s stocktake of spending to be followed up by a commitment to spending the money needed to prevent the violence in the first place. Women’s Spokeperson Jan Logie said "I’m relieved that the Government are making family and sexual violence one of their top priorities, and creating a framework for a better response." She also said, "The Government stocktake shows how poorly we are responding now. The largest single area of funding is Corrections. This is particularly galling when only 1-2% of family and sexual violence results in a conviction. The second and third largest areas of funding are the Police and Child, Youth, and Family - both of whom have been in the media recently for very public failures to protect women and children who have suffered family and sexual violence. The next largest spend is in our hospitals. Most of the Government funding is being spent on the ramifications of its failure to address the violence. Very little is available for support and healing for survivors, let alone the smallest area of spending, primary prevention. We look forward to the Government prioritising prevention and support for victim survivors of family and sexual violence as part of a comprehensive and consistent Government response."

Women's Refuge welcomed the announcement. Chief Executive Dr Ang Jury said, "Women’s Refuge agrees that a 'planned' response to the issue of violence within families is preferable to the current system and we hope to be a part of this. We are especially pleased to see the range of government ministers brought together and committed to working collaboratively on this work programme. We look forward to seeing details of the action plan going forward." Dr Jury said Women’s Refuge was not surprised by the disestablishment of the Taskforce on Family Violence, but is saddened by this. "The removal of the Taskforce dissolves the only formal mechanism that included the non-government sector in oversight of work around family and sexual violence," she says. "However I am somewhat reassured by comment within the Cabinet paper of a new agreed approach to community engagement and look forward to further details of this."

The Human Rights Commission welcomed the launch of the new programme. Human Rights Commissioner Jackie Blue said "Many survivors struggle to access services with government agencies tending to work in silos: however the stocktake and this new plan of work aims to begin to address these problems."

This page will be updated with media and further information as it becomes available.

Media

New family violence programme launched, NZ Law Society, 30.07.2015

Response to family violence "absolutely hopeless", NewsTalk ZB, 30.07.2015

Women’s Refuge welcomes Family and Sexual Violence Programme, Press Release: Women's Refuge, 30.07.2015

Urgent action needed on family and sexual violence – Greens, Voxy, 29.07.2015

Moves on family and sexual violence response welcomed, Press Release: Human Rights Commission, 29.07.2015

Smarter spending needed on family violence services - Government, NZ Herald, 29.07.2015