National survey of FaRS-funded service providers

Overview of services and service provider perspectives
Research Report – August 2018

2 Research methodology

The project methodology of this research study comprised two components. The first was a national, web-based survey targeted at FaRS and SFVS service providers, inclusive of managers and practitioners. The survey was supplemented by a small number of targeted, semi-structured telephone interviews with FaRS and SFVS managers and practitioners.

2.1 Online survey

The online survey collected information about participating FaRS' and SFVS' broad area of operations and geographic location. It focused on how the services operated, the types of clients seen by services, referral processes and processes for dealing with domestic and family violence (DFV).

To develop the survey, AIFS undertook scoping activities of similar cross-sectional and longitudinal studies, reviewed relevant DSS literature, consulted with DSS and key stakeholders (regarding survey domains/focus areas, testing of recruitment strategy), and made use of the information provided during a consultation and 'workshopping' process between the AIFS research team, DSS and a group of FaRS and SFVS service providers (comprising managers and practitioners). Before commencement of the main fieldwork, the survey was pilot tested with relevant DSS and AIFS staff, as well as with an advisory group of Victorian FaRS and SFVS program managers.

An email invitation alert and information sheet drafted by AIFS, and circulated by the DSS through their service delivery networks, alerted FaRS and SFVS service providers of the study and encouraged them to participate. AIFS subsequently circulated a link to the survey to relevant individuals and organisations whose names and contact details were provided by DSS and/or by other individuals within the relevant organisation. Due to staffing changes at FaRS across the period of the research project, finding relevant addresses proved to be a time-intensive process.

Individuals, particularly program managers receiving study information, were encouraged to pass the link on to other relevant people within their organisation. Individuals receiving the link then chose whether or not to (anonymously) complete the 15-minute survey. The online survey was hosted on AIFS' secure servers.

The fieldwork period spanned four weeks of active recruitment with an extension of two weeks to mitigate the effects of the data collection period falling across December-January (making the fieldwork period six weeks in total). Reminder emails were sent at weekly intervals to the networks and to key personnel, reminding them to participate and/or to forward the invitation email on to potential respondents.

2.2 Qualitative interviews

The second component of the project methodology consisted of telephone interviews with key stakeholders (primarily program managers) from FaRS and/or SFVS providers. Concurrent to the online survey, qualitative interviews were conducted with service providers (in their professional capacity) in order to explore aspects of their service that were difficult to capture in an online survey. The interviews were semi-structured and explored general themes relating to:

  • the factors influencing FaRS and SFVS program outcomes
  • SFVS strengths and points of difference from other FaRS services
  • the ways in which FaRS and SFVS services work with and/or refer to other services
  • ways of building service and worker capacity for dealing effectively with DFV.

    2.3 Study sample and data analyses

The online survey was completed by 212 participants. Of these, 146 survey respondents indicated that they worked primarily in FaRS, 60 said they worked in both FaRS and SFVS, and six reported that they worked solely in SFVS. There were respondents from FaRS and SFVS in all Australian states and territories.1 As such, the survey sample represented services from across Australia and provided data useful for a descriptive snapshot of the activities undertaken by FaRS and SFVS activities, their client and referral patterns and the issues that staff and managers commonly confront in their work.

However, there were some limitations to the survey and some care should be taken when interpreting results. The small sample size and the opportunistic recruitment method (whereby respondents anonymously opted into the survey after receiving an email invitation circulated within their organisation) meant that it was not possible to control the sample's structure. The anonymous responses and the absence of a sampling frame of the entire eligible population of FaRS staff mean that it was not possible to determine how representative of all FaRS and SFVS, or their staff, the survey respondents were. The data analysis was primarily descriptive in nature. For the most part, calculation of statistical significance, or analysis of differences within and between subgroups, was not appropriate or could not be meaningfully calculated.

Nine interviewees from nine different FaRS and/or SFVS participated in the qualitative interviews. The interviewees were drawn from the list of contacts provided to AIFS by DSS. The interviews provided contextual understanding of the descriptive data gathered from the online survey. They gave insight into the individual strategies, approaches, perceptions and experiences adopted by interviewees (and their respective services) in order to meet, manage and respond to local community needs.

1 In the July-December period, when survey fieldwork began, there were 82 organisations delivering FaRS services at 481 sites. The data on the number of organisations or sites represented by respondents were too incomplete or unreliable to accurately calculate but indicated that staff from at least 50 organisations completed the survey.