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Intervention programme addresses family violence

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Agencies involved in family violence in Christchurch are confident a new proactive intervention programme targeting potential offenders will help to reduce and prevent family violence.

The Police Safety Order pilot project is a collaboration of NZ Police, Stopping Violence Services and refuges in the Christchurch metropolitan area.

The project, which began at the end of December 2012 and runs until February 2014, offers direct support and safety advice for people who are identified as being at risk of committing violence within their family.

Police family violence coordinator Pegeen O'Rourke Harris says the service is based around the police safety order (PSO), which is issued to people who have come to police attention because of the risk of family violence occurring.

The PSO pilot identifies the issuing of a PSO as a "red card moment" where the risk of violence has been identified and where positive intervention would be beneficial for the whole family, she says.

"For many years family violence crisis response services have been aware of the need for a more proactive service that offers support to potential offenders.

"This pilot programme involves all recipients of a PSO being proactively contacted by Stopping Violence Services.

"The SVS worker focuses on supporting and identifying safety strategies, listening to the concerns of the 'bound person' [the person to whom the PSO is issued] and working out with them what assistance is needed.

"This process works alongside the well-established refuge process of contacting every woman involved in a family violence event attended by Police and offering support and safety planning for her and her children."

In 2010, a legislation change gave Police the ability to issue PSOs, which are a significant prevention tool. Agencies hope that potential offenders will be motivated to accept assistance and make positive changes at this time.

Following a measured assessment of the pilot project, it's hoped that the initiative will be able to be extended to other groups.

Canterbury Police Prevention Manager Inspector Richard Bruce says the pilot fits well with the Prevention First strategy and its emphasis on supporting victims.

"In the past our resources have been primarily focused on responding and reacting to family violence," he says. "That will continue, of course, as it's vital that we offer swift, effective intervention whenever family violence occurs.

"But increasingly we're looking for ways to prevent crime from occurring, and prevent people from becoming victims.

"This project is a great example of a proactive strategy which uses the strengths and resources of a number of agencies."

The manager of Stopping Violence Services, Paul Shamy, says the agency is also enthusiastic about the initiative.

"This is a unique opportunity to work closely with the Police and Womens’ Refuges to deliver a professional crisis response intervention, and to hold potential offenders accountable, while also supporting them.

"This is very much an 'ambulance at the top of the cliff' project, which will go a long way towards addressing the current gap in the provision of services for bound persons.

"We're confident this will result in better safety for women and children, and reduce the horrific individual, social and economic costs and damage to our community from family violence."

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