Flexible support packages are changing lives

About twelve women and children coming through McAuley Community Service for Women crisis services have been able to pursue housing options through the flexible support packages rolled out by the Victorian Government this year.

The packages provide vital practical support for women escaping family violence in the west region of Melbourne. The packages, of up to $7000, will pay for things like rent, bond or relocation costs, furnishings and security measures to improve safety at home. The support money can also be used to pay certain fines or arrears, medical costs, or to cover costs associated with children relocating to a new school including uniforms.

Melissa, Family Violence Case Manager with McAuley Care, said the packages have had a huge impact on the capacity of women, and children, to begin rebuilding their lives after the trauma of family violence. Melissa highlighted two cases studies, both requiring very different solutions, to illustrate the importance of the packages.

Case Study 1:
Flexible Support Package approval of $5,131.
Purpose of Package: Safe and Stable Housing – Relocation

This woman and her young son were no longer safe living in Melbourne. The client was in need of immediate protection and was afraid to leave the refuge for fear of being seen by her former partner. She lived with a lot of anxiety, fear and in isolation. From McAuley safe house, she moved into McAuley Care’s refuge program. This client’s long-term goal was to save up enough money to move inter-state where she had support networks. This sort of relocation would have taken her six to eight months of saving.

Her McAuley Care case worker applied for the package which was granted. Within a week the woman and her son were flown interstate. As well, her belongings were relocated and her bond and first month’s rent on a new house were paid.

“Without the package we could not have achieved this in such a short time frame. This woman was with us for a month and we worked quickly to get this application in. As long as this woman and her son were in Melbourne her mental and emotional state deteriorated because of her fear of what would happen if she was found by her former partner,” Melissa said.

Case Study 2:
Flexible Support Package approval of $1,500.
Purpose of Package: Security Measures for Return to Home

This woman and her young daughter were in McAuley safe house for a week before entering into McAuley’s refuge program. Once in refuge, the case manager worked with the woman for two months supporting her through court orders as well as working with Child Protection. There was initially an AIO (Accommodation Interim Order) restriction, meaning the woman and her child could not return to their home as it was seen as unsafe by DHS and Child Protection Services. However, that order was lifted after a range of security measures, funded by the package, were put in place. The locks on all doors of the woman’s home were changed as well as new locks installed on the front and back gates. To ensure maximum safety, sensor lights were installed at the front and back of the property so a light would shine and alert the family of any trespassers or guests.

Unless these safety measures had been added to the woman’s State Housing home, she would have had to relinquish the property and go on a wait list for another house. These waitlists have no guarantee of a property being readily available and waits vary anywhere from six months to four years.
“This child was traumatised by family violence in her home. So, in addition to this package, we also advocated for additional funding for a new bunk bed for the child. She was able to return to the home where she experienced family violence with a new bed. This simple shift of environmental change had a huge impact on her sense of safety and that in turn was important for the mother,” Melissa said.

“Installing safety measures was the best exit option for this family after refuge and the family returned home safely and has now sought to go back to a normal routine in familiar surroundings. Child Protection staff were happy with this housing outcome and continue to monitor this family’s situation.”

Melissa said every woman in the safe house and refuge is haunted by the fear of ‘where will they go next?’ “These packages really help to secure housing options and sustainable long-term outcomes for women and children. More importantly, the packages have a client-centred approach. We work with the client to identify their individual needs and we advocate on their behalf to apply for a suitable package that reflects those needs. What might be a small contribution to some makes a significant difference to a woman’s life. It empowers women to start thinking ahead and shifts their focus to a life beyond violence.”