The Government has today launched a new "common approach" response to family violence in a bid to ensure those seeking help get it - wherever they turn.

The Risk and Assessment Management Framework (RAMF) was announced at the Family Violence Summit in Wellington this morning.

The summit, headed by Justice Minister Amy Adams and Social Development Minister Anne Tolley, has brought together more than 120 key players in the family violence sector.

Throughout the day they will take part in a range of workshops aimed at building on ways to work better together to tackle New Zealand's "horrific" rate of family violence.

New Zealand has the highest reported rate of family violence in the developed world - but more than 80 per cent is never reported.

"Thousands of New Zealand families are affected by family violence every day and too many of them are not getting all the help they need," said Adams.

"The current system for dealing with family violence is too fragmented, so in addition to the work we're doing to improve it, we've developed a framework, which sets out common understanding of family violence, a clear protocol for assessing risk, and a consistent approach for supporting victims and perpetrators."

Adams said the RAMF established a "common approach to screening, assessing and managing family violence risk" and was put together with the help of a wide range of people working in the violence sector.

"Although many of you working in family violence have your own risk assessment and management methods, we have never had a common approach nationally," Adams told the summit this morning.

"Without this, the system is unable to begin to operate with a truly integrated approach.

"This framework aims to achieve a level of consistency and best practice that will better support victims to recover and perpetrators to take responsibility."

Adams explained that the RAMF supported the "no wrong door" model.

"By helping to ensure that when people seek help for family violence, whatever path they take, they are supported with consistent, professional services that meet their needs," she said.


"A critical issue is that family violence often isn't picked up until it's entrenched.

"Or, if the early signs are recognised, the system is too slow to respond or responds inadequately, causing people seeking help to disengage.

"We cannot allow victims to be left to flounder on their own or go without support because they couldn't navigate the system."

Adams said the framework would set up "a more consistent, integrated and proactive approach" that supported victims, perpetrators and their families through the complex network of agencies, services and practitioners involved in family violence.

Ann Tolley was one of the ministers to address the conference.
Ann Tolley was one of the ministers to address the conference.

Tolley will also launch a guide outlining the capabilities those in the family violence sector needed to successfully support victims, perpetrators and their families.

Tolley said the family violence workforce was large and complex, involving government agencies, family and sexual violence specialists, NGOs and practitioners.

"There is a wide range of different practices and understandings, resulting in varying degrees of effectiveness," she said.

"The Workforce Capability Framework outlines the skills, knowledge and organisational support the workforce needs to provide an integrated, consistent and effective response to victims, perpetrators and their families.

"By working together we stand a much stronger chance of achieving better outcomes for victims and their families."

The summit

Victims, survivors, perpetrators and experts have come together today for the summit at Te Wharewaka o Poneke on Wellington's waterfront.

Summit chairman Sir Wira Gardiner welcomed guests, saying a "fundamental question" for the day was "why are we still coming to meetings of this kind?"

Advertisement

Prime Minister Bill English then spoke, saying "we are here to change lives".

He said family violence destroyed lives and relationships and the government had a "strong commitment" to doing everything it could to address the issue.

He said it was important to find out what "actually happens" in New Zealand homes and families, which was quite often different to what people "think happens".

English said it was vital for the Government to find out who and where the most vulnerable people were, who had the best connection to them in the community and how to gauge whether a difference had been made in their lives.

"How do we get that customer off our books?" he said.

"That is success - success is having less to do."

Bill English said years of change was needed to improve New Zealand's family violence statistics. Photo / File
Bill English said years of change was needed to improve New Zealand's family violence statistics. Photo / File

English said he hoped the summit resulted in more pressure on his government.

"There's a whole lot of things we just can't know," he said.

"We need that external pressure. It's a vital source of change."

English said the summit was not an election year gimmick.

"We are very committed to seeing this through, this isn't an election year talk. We're not stopping just because there's an election.

"Having an impact is going to take years of change."

NZ's family violence rate "a tragedy"

Adams said New Zealand was a country people could be "immensely proud of", leading the world in so many ways - but for too long, had been a leader in family violence rates.

"It is a tragedy that our rate of family violence is one of the highest in the developed world, with New Zealand Police responding to an incident somewhere in the country every five minutes," she said.

"While family violence occurs across all parts of New Zealand society, for Maori in particular far too many homes experience violence and domination as the norm.

"That's not what I want any child growing up in this country to see or experience.

"I refuse to accept that this is as good as it can be and I am not willing to accept any level of family violence in the future of Aotearoa."

Adams said family violence had a "devastating impact" on Kiwis.

"Not just on the victims but on our society as a whole," she said.

"Family violence is affecting us all socially and economically.

"It's causing devastating outcomes for children, increasing the youth suicide rate, costing businesses in lost productivity and pushing up our prison population.

"But more than that it is destroying for many the one thing we should all have and that is a family within which we are cherished and loved.

"We can and must do better."

Adams said that as the government and experts "delved deeper" into issues around family violence, it had become clear that the response was "ad hoc, isolated and incident-based" and the system failed "to properly understand and respond to the nature of family-based violence as an ongoing pattern of behaviour that needs an integrated and holistic response".

"Simply viewing family violence as a responsibility of the police or of the criminal justice system will at best stop a perpetrator from being able to cause harm for a short period," she said.

"We also know that non-aligned responses make it difficult for people to access the help they need.

"There are too many doors and paths to navigate so many victims and perpetrators either don't get the right help for their particular needs, or don't get any help at all."

The framework would hopefully address that.

No wrong door for family violence victims

"When we hear the statistic that says two thirds of family violence incidents go unreported, we should bear in mind that actually the majority of victims have talked about their experience of violence by a partner, it's just that across our communities we don't have the mechanisms in place to ensure that victims get the help they need," Adams said.

"What I believe we want to see is a future system where there is 'no wrong door' - meaning that no matter who a victim talks to about their experience, that person can find the information about what they need to do to help the victim.

"We need a system where everyone is equipped with information and skills to confidently recognise family violence and respond appropriately.

"A system where there is 'no wrong door' will mean that every victim who approaches someone about their experience is heard, believed and helped no matter where they go."

Adams said the police Integrated Safety Response programme (ISR), among other mechanisms, was "showing signs of being a real game changer" in the family violence sphere.

"It is showing us the full extent of the unmet demand, the necessity for a new approach and some of the critical components of what our future system needs," she said.

"Some of those involved in ISR have been quite robust in telling me that starting to deal properly with the complexity of need is causing challenges as the system reconfigures to respond better.

"I acknowledge the difficulties and pressures this has created, but they have also been blunt in saying to me that, having seen the difference that dealing with cases of family and whanau violence in this way makes, they can never go back to operating as they did.

"That tells me we have to stay on this path - it's not perfect yet but it is teaching us and shaping the future system in ways we've never before been able to do."

The ISR is running in Canterbury and Waikato with a view to roll the model out nationwide.

"No one of these elements should be viewed by itself - they are all intended to work as a whole to support, and allow us to build, a whole new way of working," said Adams.

"Anyone looking for an announcement that by itself is the solution to this deeply ingrained, multi-generational issue is at best naïve.

"What we do know is that for any future system to be successful, one of the foundations that will be needed is for there to be consistency across all the agencies, services and practitioners in the way they understand and deal with family violence risk.

"One of the clear messages that has come through in our consultation with the public and practitioners in this space over the past two years is that a consistent approach to identifying and responding to risk is a critical component of building a 'no wrong door' model."

The RAMF was the best start for that.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we are under no illusions that there is a quick or easy fix that will solve our country's horrific rate of family violence - it won't happen quickly and none of us can do it alone," Adams told the summit.

"But changes and better outcomes are absolutely possible and are the responsibility of us all.

"If we are to truly change people's lives and ensure that all children are able to grow up in homes where they feel safe and loved, we need to think differently and we need to work together."

Adams said she was committed to making family violence responses her "number one priority" for as long as she was the Justice Minister.

For more on the Family Violence Summit click here