Eligibility, risk assessment and referral
People of all genders are victims of domestic family or sexual violence (DFSV) in Australia and people of all genders are perpetrators of DFSV. However, the majority of victims of DFSV in Australia are women and the majority of perpetrators are men (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016, Personal Safety Survey).
Eligible people for referral to the Family Safety Framework (FSF) include those people experiencing DFSV:
- who are within an intimate relationship, including same sex relationships.
- who were previously involved in an intimate relationship (ex-partners), including same sex relationships.
- who are relatives according to Aboriginal traditional or contemporary social structures.
Some cases, such as elder abuse, may fall outside these examples but may still be considered at a Family Safety Meeting.
It is expected that anyone experiencing DFSV receive a comprehensive, thorough and effective response from agencies tasked with supporting their safety and wellbeing.
Anyone over 18 is eligible for support through the FSF where a referral is appropriate.
Considerations in the decision to make a referral to a FSM are that the person is:
- experiencing domestic, family or sexual violence that is assessed as high risk and where the risk of serious harm is ongoing and/or escalating and judged as likely to occur soon; and
- where additional collaborative and informed responses (through the work done at the Family Safety Meeting) is required to mitigate and reduce risk and harm.
When NOT to make a referral to a Family Safety Meeting
The assessment of risk and safety underpins the decision to refer to the Family Safety Meeting (FSM). At the FSM each agency shares information relating to the case and, when considered collectively at the FSM, a more comprehensive understanding of the person's risk is established.
It is critical in addressing high risk that pertinent risk-related information is gathered from more than one source. This is to enhance the safety of the person at risk and any children involved.
There are some commonalities related to risk in cases where domestic homicide has occurred. These relate to:
- Nature of the abuse – for example, emotional, physical, sexual, controlling behaviour.
- Historical patterns of perpetrator behaviour – for example, previous convictions or abusive behaviour, jealousy, increase in intensity or nature of abuse.
- The person’s perception of risk – for example, specific fears for themselves, children, pets.
- Specific factors associated with the violence – for example, use of weapon, threats to kill, strangulation, coercive control.
- Reinforcing factors which inhibit pro-social behaviour – for example, drugs, alcohol, financial or mental health issues.
- Other factors – for example, pregnancy, separation, child contact, cultural vulnerabilities, legal processes underway.
The Domestic Violence Risk Assessment (DVRA) is South Australian common risk assessment based research on intimate partner homicide. It is important to be aware that this is a tool which indicates risk and vulnerability factors identified by a worker at a point in time and assists in decision making regarding action to be taken to improve safety.
The DVRA provides a common understanding of risk across referrers. Professional judgement is a critical contribution to the DVRA, and referrers should include victim’s perceptions of risk and apply their professional judgement to a referral rather than rely solely on a risk score. The DVRA provides a consistent way to assess risk across multiple agencies and identify if an individual should be referred to a Family Safety Meeting.
The DVRA is not intended to replace agencies’ existing risk assessment forms or procedures but is a practical tool that will assist and inform the type and urgency of responses to a person at risk (and their family) and case planning as well as any decision to make a referral to a Family Safety Meeting (FSM). Risk is dynamic and workers need to be alert to the fact that risk can change very suddenly.
Risk assessment is carried out by the agency, or individual worker, that is engaged with that person or receives information of an incident or pattern of domestic violence.
The questions contained in the risk assessment tool are not intended to be asked directly but form a guide in talking with a person at risk about their experiences of violence and abuse.
- It is important to obtain as much information in response to all the questions on the form as is safe / relevant to do so.
- It is also important to actively consider professional judgement in relation to cases and make referrals as required rather than being guided only by the overall risk score.
On some occasions a risk assessment may not reach the high-risk threshold of 45. This may be because:
- The person at risk does not indicate/disclose experiences consistent with many of the risk assessment questions.
- The person at risk is relaying a single incident of domestic family and sexual violence (DFSV) but there is a history and DFSV circumstances known to the worker.
- The account of the person at risk is inconsistent with the worker’s observations.
- A full interview/assessment is unable to be completed.
- The worker has difficulty gaining this information due to language barriers, cultural barriers, distress of the person at risk, or any other reason.
If a worker is unsure of the level of risk, where possible, advice should be sought from a supervisor or manager.
If a worker believes that the risk score does not reflect the case’s true risk level the worker can exercise professional judgement to refer to a FSM.
The Domestic Violence Risk Assessment (DVRA) should not be used as the sole basis for safety planning, but rather in conjunction with other information about the person and their situation. It is important to listen to their experiences of violence and abuse and to take in to account their own assessment of risk and safety.
Evidence shows that in many cases the victim survivor is the best judge of their level of risk, because they are most familiar with the patterns of behaviour of the person committing DFV against them.Page last updated : 12 Jul 2022