When did the initiative commence?

The Families@Home program commenced in late 2012.

What need does the initiative respond to?

Interest in starting the program stemmed from the high incidence of family violence in the City of Whittlesea.

“A number of significant service gaps in responding to women and children were identified,” Families@Home coordinator Cath Grelli says.

“The link between women and children moving into homelessness as a result of family violence was very clear.

“It was understood that something needed to be done in terms of putting the brakes on women and children requiring a tertiary response, down the track.

“The Families@Home service delivery model—an early intervention partnership—was seen to be something that could intervene in family violence and prevent homelessness.”

What organisations are involved in the initiative?

Families@Home is led by Kildonan UnitingCare in partnership with Crossroads Family Violence Service and HomeGround Services.

What does the initiative do? Who does it support?

Families@Home is a multidisciplinary, early intervention initiative aimed at keeping women and their children who have experienced family violence, and are at risk of homelessness as a result, safe and secure in their homes. The service does this by coordinating families’ access to: financial counselling, housing services, family violence counselling, support for children, education, training or employment, support for men to stop their use of violence and other services.

Families@Home serves families in the City of Whittlesea. Individuals or families may refer themselves, or be referred through community service organisations such as schools, health and community services, the courts, police or local council.

How is the initiative resourced/funded?

Families@Home is funded through the Department of Health and Human Services.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to set up a similar initiative?

Ms Grelli says that the Families@Home model “got it right”.

“We have a financial counsellor, a housing worker, a number of case workers and a community engagement worker,” Cath says.

“This has enabled us to provide very effective interventions for women and children at risk.”

Ms Grelli says that the model has been continuously evaluated by KPMG. She says that through this evaluation in through their own practice, they have identified that one gap has been the absence of a specialist children’s worker.

“By default we do work with children and connect them in to other services. But when it comes to children having particular needs, including dealing with the trauma resulting from their experiences of family violence, we simply don’t have the resources, including time, to work with children effectively.”

Cath says that, next year, they are hoping to run a group for children in partnership with Bright Futures.

Ms Grelli also says that flexible funding is important—funding has enabled Families@Home  to pay for needs like  women’s bond and first month’s rent, which has been key to the program’s success.

Ms Grelli also notes that getting things right from the beginning, in terms of the way the services in the partnership are going to work together, is key.

“Being inclusive and focussing on agencies’ strengths is so important for the success of this model,” Ms Grelli says.

“We have had lots of planning meetings with our partners and everybody gets to have a say.”

How should clients be referred into the program?

Individuals or families in the City of Whittelsea may refer themselves, or be referred through community service organisations such as schools, health services, the courts, police or local council. To make a referral, contact Kildonan UnitingCare (03) 8401 0100 or email fahreferrals@kildonan.org.au.