Better practice in responding to family violence
- Principle One: Develop an informed approach that works for the organisation
- Principle Two: Lead from the top and demonstrate accountability
- Principle Three: Prioritise safety and choice for victim-survivors
- Principle Four: Build a culture of awareness, internally and externally
- Principle Five: Acknowledge and address barriers to access
Better practice in responding to family violencePublished 06 August 2019
Avoid repeat disclosure
When victims-survivors have to repeat their story of family violence to different staff it can be traumatising. It can lead them to stop seeking support or may place them at greater risk if the perpetrator monitors their calls. Repeated disclosure may occur if staff members aren’t adequately trained to identify signs of family violence, or if internal systems don’t allow staff to readily identify the account of a customer who has been identified as affected by family violence.
EnergyAustralia and Yarra Valley Water piloted a referral arrangement to promote supportive and flexible assistance to its customers. In doing so, both businesses sought to address the anxiety and hardship customers can experience having to tell their story of family violence to utilities, banks and other service providers in order to gain more time to pay bills, or to establish critical services.
Case study – Energy Australia and Yarra Valley Water
EnergyAustralia piloted a Hardship Referral Program aimed to make it less stressful for vulnerable customers seeking broader support when in hardship.
EnergyAustralia partnered with Yarra Valley Water to provide an option for vulnerable customers to elect to share their information between EnergyAustralia and Yarra Valley Water. For customers, it means they have the option of only having to explain their circumstances once. It saves time and it saves stress. Through the Thriving Communities Partnership, EnergyAustralia and Yarra Valley Water are working on expanding the program.
EnergyAustralia collaborated with WEstjustice to develop more efficient ways of supporting vulnerable customers. It championed the WEstjustice Restoring Financial Safety report and adapted its vulnerability team to a ‘single entry point’ for caseworkers working with victim-survivors.
North East Water adopts a dedicated phone line for customers affected by family violence in order to promote safety and to build trust. Lower Murray Water and Coliban Water have secure accounts and internal referral procedures to allow streamlined call handling that avoids customers having to repeat their stories, and allows for specially trained staff to tailor support to the customer’s needs.
Case study – North East Water
North East Water assigns customers affected by family violence to a Customer Support Consultant. These consultants have a dedicated telephone line, which prevents the customer from having to re-tell their story to another person and helps establish a trusting relationship.
North East Water found that customers feel safer when speaking to the same person. They create a bond with the staff member and are more inclined to work with them to put in place security and payment options or account waivers.
Having a dedicated Customer Support Team does mean the same staff members are constantly working in a high “risk” environment. North East Water has put measures in please to ensure these staff members have sufficient support available. For example the Team Leader sits with the team to provide regular opportunities for debriefing and checking in.
This approach has had a positive impact on North East Water’s customers. They appreciate only needing to disclose once and developing a relationship with a dedicated staff member.
Case study – Lower Murray Water
Lower Murray Water identified the need to have procedures in place so that its customers who had identified as being in, or having fled family violence did not have to repeat their story each time they rang.
It identified the need for two family violence officers who would provide ongoing support to customers, and who could would act as back up to each other in times of leave. The revenue officer for rural customers and the revenue officer for urban customers were designated these roles in addition to their responsibility for hardship cases.
It was determined that once a customer identified as being a victim-survivor of family violence they would be referred to one of the two officers who make themselves available to be their central contact and provide a direct phone number. Should the customer take up this arrangement, Lower Murray Water’s IT system would flag the account as ‘name suppressed’ so that should the customer call the general line, the customer service officer would know to transfer the call on.
Lower Murray Water found its customers were more willing to open up when they know they will have one point of contact and often communicate that they are relieved they do not have to repeatedly disclose their situation.
Case Study – Coliban Water
Coliban Water has a process for securing customer accounts so their information is kept secure. When a customer calls, contact centre staff know to transfer them to the appropriate team.
Given their level of contact with customers experiencing vulnerability, the Account Solutions team was identified as best placed to assist customers affected by family violence. The Account Solutions team receives accredited training from the Centre for Non-Violence and has appropriate skills and referral information to assist customers.
On occasion the Account Solutions team make home visits, and they were finding customers would sometimes disclose family violence. When this occurred, customers could discuss additional assistance that Coliban Water could provide. Coliban Water found that face to face contact allowed customers to feel at ease before they disclose their family violence situation.
Both in person and on the phone, this approach has supported Account Solutions staff to make informed and respectful decisions that meet their customers’ immediate needs.
Gas and electricity retailers must have a secure process that avoids affected customers having to repeatedly disclose or refer to their experience of family violence.
See 106H of the Energy Retail Code.