This research project provided a national mapping and meta-evaluation of the key features of “safe at home” programs. “Safe at home” programs enhance safety and prevent homelessness for women and their children who have experienced domestic and family violence.
The first stage, a state of knowledge paper, provided a comprehensive review of the literature and a national mapping of current “safe at home” programs by jurisdiction, including details of legislation underpinning “safe at home” programs in each jurisdiction. The second stage, the final research report, was a meta-evaluation of select evidence about Australian “safe at home” programs and practices.
The meta-evaluation examined 20 evaluations of “safe at home” programs across Australia to identify the key features of effective programs and to provide recommendations for policy-makers, practitioners and researchers.
The report found that “safe at home” programs had four common underlying themes, but each focused primarily on maximising women’s safety, using protection orders and ouster/exclusion provisions to reduce the risk of a perpetrator returning, or preventing homelessness, using case-management to assess risk, manage safety planning and consider women’s needs over time. Overall, one or more of the themes were identified across the “safe at home” evaluations, but the emphasis varied by program and at different points during the response provided.
It also found:
- The lead agency in each state or territory appears to determine how “safe at home” is rolled out and whether it is focused on housing (“stay at home”) or criminal justice (“safe at home”). “Stay at home” responses are mostly offered over a longer period of time, compared with many first-response services involving specialist homelessness services. A longer period of service provision allows for ongoing and dynamic assessment of risk and for women’s changing needs to be met at different points of time.
- It is still unclear whether independent strategies which could be used in any domestic violence-related intervention (e.g. risk assessment, brokerage, safety alarms and specialised police response) should be considered “safe at home” responses in their own right; or whether these strategies are most useful and of greater impact when embedded in a more comprehensive program, and offers case management beyond the initial crisis period.
- Monitoring data indicates that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) women are accessing “safe at home” responses, but little is known of the usefulness of such interventions for these groups.
As emphasised in all of the Australian evaluations included in this meta-evaluation, “safe at home” is not intended to be the only response for women leaving a violent relationship. While not replacing the need for refuges or specialist homelessness services, “safe at home” programs are an important complementary offering which allows more women to leave a violent relationship. “Safe at home” options are also intended to be a socially just response for some women in certain circumstances to have the important choice to not uproot their lives and those of their children by fleeing their family home.
ANROWS Horizons are in-depth reports on empirical research produced under ANROWS’s Research Program.