4.1 This chapter considers ways in which agencies within the Department of Human Services (DHS) portfolio—in particular Centrelink, the Child Support Agency (CSA) and the Family Assistance Office (FAO)—can better identify and respond to family violence-related safety concerns.
4.2 There was substantial agreement among stakeholders about the need for DHS to identify and respond to family violence-related safety concerns, with disagreement largely centred on how this could be best achieved by DHS. The ALRC also notes that DHS has already begun a process of considering the range of matters raised in this chapter. The ALRC’s recommendations are aimed at complementing such initiatives.
4.3 The ALRC recommends that DHS staff providing customer services should facilitate the disclosure of family violence-related safety concerns by providing information about how family violence may be relevant to a person’s social security, child support and family assistance case, at the point of registration and at subsequent intervention points.
4.4 The identification of family violence-related safety concerns should result in an appropriate issues management response, which may include referral to a Centrelink social worker or other expert service providers. To assist with this, and to reduce the need for a customer to re-disclose, the ALRC recommends that DHS should consider developing and implementing a ‘safety concern’ flag to be placed on a customer’s file where family violence-related safety concerns are identified. This flag should be available to relevant agencies subject to informed consent of the customer and with appropriate privacy safeguards.
4.5 Lastly, the ALRC recommends that DHS staff receive consistent, regular and targeted training and education to ensure that they are appropriately equipped to deal with family violence-related safety concerns.