Families fleeing violence need long-term support

McAuley Community Services for Women has applauded the Victorian Government on its leadership and investment in family violence and has welcomed the new Victorian Housing Strategy, ‘Towards Home’. We are still concerned that, with an emphasis on ‘rough sleeping’, alternative models such as ours, which cater to women’s needs, will be sidelined. We also urge a focus on the connection between homelessness, family violence and mental health which is at risk of being missed through funding gaps.     

“Victoria is well ahead in addressing family violence at a systemic level, with a two-year $572 million funding package to achieve transformational change,” CEO Jocelyn Bignold said.

In its submission to the 2017/18 Victorian Budget, McAuley Community Services for Women argues for investment to ensure that women and children experiencing family violence are supported longer term.

“Traditionally, services have been funded to help women and children during an initial crisis period. Our monthly statistics reveal that most families leaving our safe house go onto refuges or ‘couch surf’ with family and friends (safe, but still homeless ). Slowly, longer term funding is trickling down, but most women need better access to long-term counselling, financial and other practical support, especially as they plan their escape,” Ms Bignold said.

Our submission also highlights the need for further investment into accommodation and support services such as McAuley House. In the space of six weeks since the new purpose built accommodation and support centre was opened, the organisation has witnessed immense changes in the lives of women, their confidence levels, and their health.

Services such as McAuley, can and do work with women to overcome other barriers (physical and mental health, alcohol and other drugs, loss of employment skills) over the longer term, and ‘step in’ if their housing is at risk. We know this from the respite care model that we adopt at McAuley House. This support program allows us to remain in touch with women once they are in their own accommodation, enabling them to seek support when they require it and, at the same time, maintain their housing.

“We encourage the government to continue to invest in specialist accommodation and support services because it works,” Ms Bignold said.

However, an affordable housing strategy that underpins direction and policy is essential for meaningful change.