Family violence risk management & safety plan

For a full guide to undertaking intermediate risk management, including safety planning, check out this MARAM practice guide, and always seek guidance from your supervisor and get some secondary consultation from your local Specialist Family Violence Service.

Structured Professional Judgement

The model of Structured Professional Judgement continues to apply after risk assessment and can support you to determine the level of risk and risk management responses.

Key points include:

  • Don’t assume you know what is best for victim survivors; listen closely to their knowledge about risk and safety.
  • Do not assume that leaving the relationship is the best outcome for the client.
  • Victim survivors will already be employing safety strategies, though they may not realise it, so recognise, validate and build on what they are already doing.
  • Explore which strategies are effective and helpful, and which may not be so helpful but could be adapted.
  • You are not alone. AOD clients may be engaged with other services. Ensure a family violence risk management plan is created in collaboration with the other support services.
  • If no support services are established, using referral, FVISS as well as secondary consultation to ensure the appropriateness of the safety plan. Discuss with your manager / supervisor and follow organisational risk management procedures.
  • Apply an intersectional lens to ensure appropriate response to structural inequalities, barriers and discrimination.
  • Risk is dynamic and always changing and so safety planning needs to be an on-going discussion and adjusted accordingly.

MARAM safety plan templates include:

Safety plans for family violence should include actions to keep safe in the relationship, at the point of leaving and once the relationship has ended.

Where a person has problems with drugs, alcohol or their mental health, additional considerations include[1]:

  • Substance use and mental health problems can make it difficult for victim survivors to assess the severity of the abuse they are experiencing.
  • Is the safety plan realistic for the client? Can they implement the plan when they’re intoxicated or unwell?
  • Consider changes to patterns of substance use that may increase safety. For example, using at times of day that their partner is unlikely to be around.
  • Does the safety plan incorporate strategies to promote access to AOD treatment or mental health services?
  • What response might survivors receive from services, the police, etc. when they make calls under the influence of alcohol/drugs or when they are unwell? What previous contact have they had with services (including child protection and police) relating to their substance use or mental health? What advocacy is required to access family violence support services?
  • Accessing safe refuge accommodation has added barriers for women with drugs and/ or alcohol use. Be prepared to work in partnership with the staff there and support them to maintain the woman’s safety.
  • Do they have sufficient prescribed (psychiatric) medication? Where is a safe place to keep prescriptions? How easily can a new prescription be arranged?
  • Discussion of harm minimisation, e.g. learning to self-inject safely, smoking rather than injecting or managing self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
  • Anticipating partner’s substance use – how to keep safer when they have been using/drinking?
  • Detox/withdrawal/relapse on the part of the perpetrator can be dangerous times in terms of safety.
  • Does the victim survivor have a relapse prevention plan? Can any actions be incorporated into the safety plan?
  • Include the safety plan in the AOD treatment plan

[1] Adapted from: Against Violence & Abuse (AVA), Complicated matters: a toolkit addressing domestic and sexual violence, substance use and mental ill-health, UK 2013