The Turnbull government has always been committed to improving the 1800RESPECT service.
We initially inherited a service where call wait times were more than 10 minutes and 67 per cent of calls went unanswered.
In 2015 we took action to address these issues by providing an extra $4 million to the service, $3.6 million of which went to R&DVSA.
After no real improvement to call wait times or percentage of calls answered, the Turnbull Government commissioned KPMG to undertake an independent review of the service.
This review provided risks and benefits to a number of potential approaches, but recommended the first response triage model as being the most likely to achieve a high-quality, responsive support to all people contacting the service.
The first response model was then implemented in August 2016. In this model, qualified counsellors with a three year degree and two years’ experience answer the initial call, and if they determined the caller required specialist trauma counselling, they pass the call onto a counsellor with a three year degree and three years counselling experience.
This handover is done through a warm transfer process so that victims do not need to retell their story more than once.
Not all callers require this trauma specialist counselling – with only around 25 per cent of calls being transferred in this way.
These changes to the service have now resulted in a significant improvement. In the three months between April and 30 June 2017, there are now 93 per cent of calls answered with an average call wait time of 37 seconds.
In March 2017 MHS launched a tender with the aim to continue to improve the service and meet future demand.
Through the tender process, MHS became concerned that a single service provider would not be able to cope with the increase in demand to the service. MHS then structured the trauma specialist counselling component to increase the number of providers delivering this service from one to four.
This change will see a significant increase in capacity for trauma specialist counselling.
To support this process, the Australian Government increased funding to 1800Respect to reach over $19 million in 2017-18, an increase of $5 million on the previous year.
This increase includes the provision for an extra 17 full time equivalent trauma specialist counsellors and additional training for staff right across the service. Total number of staff will increase from 31 to 48.
All trauma specialist counsellors will continue to be required to have a three year tertiary degree or equivalent in a related field and at least three years counselling experience.
R&DVSA’s decision to not accept a role going forward as one of the panel providers runs contrary to their earlier indications that they would engage in the contract negotiations, however this ultimately is a management decision for R&DVSA. A central benefit of the panel approach is that the remaining three experienced service providers are well placed to conduct all necessary services going forward.
The high quality service delivered to people affected by family and domestic violence by 1800RESPECT will be further improved with three highly capable specialist trauma providers from across Australia, being DV Connect in Queensland; SafeSteps in Victoria; Women’s Safety Services in South Australia.
All of these organisations are recognised experts and leaders in supporting victims of family and domestic violence and sexual abuse.