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A new approach to domestic and sexual violence in New Zealand

Pilots for an integrated, safety-focused response to family violence have had positive results in Christchurch and Waikato. The Integrated Safety Response (ISR) is a multi-agency project designed to ensure the immediate safety of victims and children. It also works with people who use violence to prevent it from happening in the future. Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice, Jan Logie, believes it resolves issues the old approach had.

Logie spoke to reporter Felix Walton, below is the transcript of the full interview. What follows is a write up by Julia Rallo, edited by Lillian Hanly.

 

An initiative that was started by the previous government, and extended by the most recent Wellbeing Budget, has seen positive results in responding to family violence. The Integrated Safety Response (ISR) is a multi-agency project that depends on collaboration to provide the best resources for those in need. It goes beyond providing help, focusing on the root of the issue. Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice, Jan Logie addresses the issues of domestic and sexual violence in New Zealand communities, saying it is more effective to have a targeted approach. Logies says the IRS is a police response which involves “a proper triage assessment to work out if it is a high-risk situation that needs more support from other agencies involved”.

Logie says “It locates where there are specialist workers in the community, who are resourced and able to provide good support for those families, improving their chances of dealing effectively with the violence and ultimately stopping it”. Logie acknowledges problems with the old approach that the new one resolves. “There wasn’t any support built in there to go in and try and get alongside the person using violence to change their behaviour ... I think we've still got room for improvement, but it will enable someone to have a primary support worker and for all the different agencies to figure out who is the best person to work with the family”.

The program incorporates Māori agencies in taking a whole-of-family/whānau approach.
“There's been a lot of learning around supporting and making sure that Kaupapa Māori agencies
are properly part of this response.” Logie continued, commenting on its impact, “This has been
built over time and has proven to be incredibly effective in making a real difference for Maori
whanau”.

The program was piloted in two cities, Christchurch and Waikato, and was reported to have delivered positive results by an independent evaluation. “Families are feeling safer as a result.”
Logie reflected on the success of the pilots, “Two statistics are particularly encouraging for me.
There is a 48% reduction in children witnessing or being exposed to family violence compared to
other areas and an 18% reported a drop in re-victimisation for Maori through this.”
These statistics have been recorded over the past evaluation period. She says, “That is
significant and think it should be a sort of hope for everyone”.


The program itself has changed over time, with further integration of community organisations. “It has shifted to much more of a collaboration within community organisations. A lot more resources have been put into the communities for them to be able to respond and work with families”. As the ISR continues, Logie spoke on future steps for the program. “We're going to be focusing on looking at the findings of this evaluation and making sure that it informs the work as we go forward in building the responses from the community up around the country. When asked about the program’s expansion into other regions, Logie referred to the ISR’s design which is for a specific community and its resources. Logie concluded by stating, “It may look a little different in different places”.

 

ORIGINAL TRANSCRIPT 


Felix Walton: So what you’re proposing is a multi-agency approach to ending family violence,
could you tell me about how this approach works?

Jan Logie: It's in Christchurch and Waikato. It is a response that when there is a police call-out,
there is actually a proper triage assessment to work out if it is a high-risk situation that needs
more support from other agencies involved. It locates where there are specialist workers in the
community, who are resourced and able to provide good support for those families, improving
their chances of dealing effectively with the violence and ultimately stopping it.


What problems with the old approach does this more collaborative model address?

It gives people a chance of getting support. Previously there was at least a collaboration
between the police, women's refuge, and oranga tamariki. If there was a police call-out, people
would try and follow up, but there was very little resourcing for them to follow up with that family
to check out their safety needs. There wasn’t any support built in there to go in and try and get
alongside the person using violence to change their behaviour.

I went back and looked at some of the documents from 2016 about the pilot and one of the
things I read was about a woman who was quite frustrated with the old approach because she
was forced to recount something several times to several different agencies. Can you talk about
how the collaborative model addresses that?


It is certainly helping improve this. I think we've still got room for improvement, but it will
enable someone to have a primary support worker and for all the different agencies to figure out
who's the best person to work with the family. They won't have 6 or 8 different organisations
turning up in their driveway, which is what did happen previously. That doesn’t work for families.

So there are several agencies working together on the ISR, could you tell me a bit about
what those agencies are and what they’re doing?

It is different in different places. There are many government agencies involved. The police, health and education agencies, ACC, MSD, and Ora Tamariki are some examples. Then there are also the community specialists. There's been a lot of learning around supporting and making sure that Kaupapa Maori agencies are properly part of this response. This has been built over time and has proven to be incredibly effective in making a real difference for Maori whanau. There’s also women's refuges and a range of different community-based organisations.

What are some of the impacts that this approach has had on family violence?

The evaluation has told us that it has significantly increased the feeling of safety for families
and has helped them build relationships with people who can help them. Families are feeling
safer as a result. Two statistics are particularly encouraging for me. There is a 48% reduction in
children witnessing or being exposed to family violence compared to other areas and an 18%
reported a drop in re-victimisation for Maori through this. That is significant and think I should be
a sort of hope for everyone.

When was family violence last recorded

That is over the evaluation period, to my understanding, goes over 3 years or 2 years.

The pilot has been going on in Christchurch and Waikato since 2016, how has it developed
over that time?

That's one of the really exciting things about ISR from my perspective. It's a continuous
learning approach. It has changed significantly over that time, from where we initially began as a
police-led initiative and government agency driven response. I’ve learned that, that isn’t the most
effective way of working. It has shifted to much more of a collaboration within community
organisations. A lot more resources have been put into the communities for them to be able to
respond and work with families. That is where the real gold is for whanau. There is an increased
amount of Kaupapa Māori programs and support for understanding their value in participation
and leadership.

What do you see as the next step for the ISR program? Would you like to see this expand to
other regions?

One of the things that the evaluation pointed to, and the success of ISR, was the values of
being community-led and government enabled. There would be strong partnerships, so that
means that we can't just roll this out into other areas because that would potentially undermine
existing partnerships and a sense of ownership of the response in a community. We're going to
be focusing on looking at the findings of this evaluation and making sure that it informs the work
as we go forward in building the responses from the community up around the country. It may
look a little different in different places.

 

Photo credit: NZ Police and Green Party