National survey of FaRS-funded service providers
This report contains the results of a mixed methods research study exploring the characteristics and activities of Department of Social Services' (DSS) funded Family and Relationship Services (FaRS) and Specialised Family Violence Services (SFVS).
The project was undertaken so that the DSS can better understand the nature and type of FaRS and SFVS activities, their referral pathways, risk-management practices, service linkages and approaches to meeting client needs. The research also aimed to share participants' strategies and approaches for identifying and responding to local community needs.
The results from this research will help to inform future service delivery and design, as well as support the capacity building of services and workers supporting those experiencing, or at risk of, domestic and family violence.
Regardless of their location, most FaRS and SFVS delivered a similar range of (primarily therapeutic) centre-based programs and referral services. Many also offered outreach activities, particularly in regional and remote areas.
Self-referrals were the largest source of referral for all FaRS and SFVS. SFVS were more likely than FaRS to have referrals to or from police, other domestic and family violence services and specialist drug and alcohol services. Services in regional and remote areas were more likely than metropolitan services to have referral pathways into, or out of, child protection services.
FaRS and SFVS services worked collaboratively across a range of sectors but referrals and collaborative relationships were most common with similar family services. Co-location was the norm for FaRS and SFVS and was believed to enhance service provision and collaboration.
Staff within FaRS and SFVS had a high degree of confidence in the quality of their service, their professional skills and their services' procedures and protocols for managing risk. However, FaRS and SFVS staff expressed a need for building their capacity to work with clients who use violence.
Staff within FaRS and SFVS reported that their services spent the largest proportion of time on intake and referrals. This reflected the importance and time-consuming nature of such work. Less staff time was available for early intervention activities or post-service follow-up.
FaRS and SFVS staff in all geographical areas indicated that their service did not always have the resources or staffing levels needed to undertake follow-up work with clients or to identify and respond to changing community needs.
The concept of 'early intervention' had several meanings in staff usage. Although many FaRS and SFVS staff indicated a desire for working with families before a crisis or violence had occurred, they usually had limited opportunity to do so. Consequently 'early intervention' in practice usually entailed dealing with clients who disclosed issues, such as domestic and family violence, at the initial referral and intake stage.
Authors and Acknowledgements
The authors are grateful to the project team at the Department of Social Services (DSS) who have been a valuable support throughout this project. The project would also not have been possible without the DSS Grant Agreement Managers, and Family Relationships Australia (FRSA), helping us to promote the survey.
Our sincere thanks go to the FaRS organisations and staff who completed the online survey and/or who made time to talk to us about their insights and experiences of service delivery. We are also grateful to those FaRS staff who helped us to workshop the survey questions or pilot the online survey.
Finally, the authors would also like to thank Megan Carroll for her analysis of the survey data and the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) communications team for their work editing and typesetting the report.
Views expressed in this report are those of the individual authors and may not reflect the views of the Australian Government.
Harvey, J. & Muir, S. (2018). National survey of FaRS-funded service providers. (Research Report). Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies.
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