Women’s Safety NSW have welcomed the announcement by the NSW Attorney General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, Mark Speakman today of $9 million from the next tranche of Commonwealth COVID relief funding for frontline domestic and family violence services.
The money will be available to frontline domestic and family violence services providing essential support to victim-survivors and abusers throughout the pandemic through a four-week competitive tendering process.
“This will be welcome relief once received” says Hayley Foster, chief executive officer of Women’s Safety NSW. “We have really seen a shadow pandemic in domestic violence throughout this COVID crisis, with client numbers, severity and complexity of matters continuing to rise.”
Ms Foster notes the importance of consultation with the women’s safety and domestic violence sector in arriving at the package.
“The NSW Government should be commended on its systematic consultation with sector experts as to the impacts of COVID on victim-survivors of domestic and family violence and the key priorities for support” says Ms Foster. “In particular, we are pleased to see the funding criteria geared towards greatest client need with priority for services supporting higher risk population groups with demonstrated barriers to service access at this critical time.”
Women’s Safety NSW and partners continue to advise the NSW and Commonwealth Governments on the impacts and patterns of domestic and family violence being observed by domestic and family violence specialists, alongside the ongoing service gaps which need to be addressed as a matter of priority.
“Whilst we have made some important progress in developing the domestic and family violence service system in NSW, significant gaps remain, such as case management support for victim-survivors as well as accommodation supports and affordable housing”, says Ms Foster. “This was highlighted in KPMG’s independent evaluation of the NSW Government’s Domestic and Family Violence Reforms released yesterday. Such gaps are even more pressing in the context of the pandemic and the resulting economic downturn. And there are legal and system reforms, such as a strengthening of Apprehended Violence Orders (AVOs) which are needed to significantly increase women and children’s safety at this time.”
Ms Foster says this work will continue right away. “It’s really good to see governments recognising the urgency of this issue. We’ll certainly be focussed on working alongside them and our key partners to progress these essential reforms without delay.”