Our work to support Victorians experiencing family violence has resulted in numerous developments in the energy and water sectors. View all resources here and learn more about our work in this area.
Family violence resources for businesses
Our family violence framework
We have developed a family violence framework that supports better practice in responding to family violence.
The framework includes:
- rules for our regulated energy and water businesses
- guidance for all organisations on better practice responses.
Our work follows recommendations by Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence that we have a role in improving the experiences of people affected by family violence.
This family violence framework forms our ongoing commitment to supporting collaboration between industry, the community sector, and government on better practice in responding to family violence.
Better practice when implementing family violence responses within businesses
We developed a better practice guide to ensure businesses implement safe and effective family violence responses. This guide highlights innovative, cross-sector industry examples that may go beyond the minimum obligations required of energy and water codes under their respective regulatory rules.
The guide is based on five principles:
- Develop an informed approach that works for the organisation.
- Lead from the top and demonstrate accountability.
- Prioritise safety and choice for victim-survivors.
- Build a culture of awareness, internally and externally.
- Acknowledge and address barriers to access.
This better practice guide aims to support businesses to implement safe and effective family violence responses. In this guide we highlight innovative, cross-sector industry examples that may go beyond minimum requirements of our energy and water rules.
Better practice in responding to and engaging survivors of family violence
Developed in partnership with Safe and Equal, and in collaboration with the University of Melbourne's Safer Families Centre, the reports provide practical guidance on how to engage with survivors of family violence.
The guidance in the reports can be applied and adapted by essential service providers, regulators and other businesses to enable safe and appropriate responses to consumers experiencing family violence and to support better practice engagement with survivor advocates.
Our role in pressing for change
Family violence impacts on the lives of many Victorians. It can include physical violence, emotional abuse and financial abuse.
The Royal Commission into Family Violence found that essential services could be used by perpetrators of family violence to cause harm.
They might put a service in the name of a victim without their knowledge or consent, or intercept mail that identifies the victim's safe location. The financial impact of family violence (including financial abuse) also means that people affected by family violence may have trouble paying bills, particularly if they've had to move multiple times.
Victorian utilities, local governments and other businesses have demonstrated a great willingness to assist people affected by family violence.
In collaboration with family violence experts we've worked closely with water businesses and energy retailers on how to provide safe and flexible assistance to customers affected by family violence.
This work is complex and continues to evolve. The commission will continue to support shared learning across Victorian businesses to ensure the highest level of support across the state.
'The victim's choices, their ability to participate freely in everyday life is taken from them. It is the deprivation of that basic right, that right to participate freely in every day life, that is what we are here to discuss.'
- Former commission Chairperson, Dr Ron Ben-David, speaking at our project launch in August 2018.
Our family violence work: a timeline
The Royal Commission into Family Violence released 227 recommendations. We were assigned responsibility for implementing recommendation 109, which related to updating the Energy Retail Code and water customer service codes.
We updated the Energy Retail Code to better protect residential electricity and gas customers anticipating or facing payment difficulty and included family violence as part of the eligibility criteria.
We collaborated with family violence experts and water businesses to make changes to customer service codes for water businesses. The changes introduced obligations on water businesses to develop a family violence policy that included minimum requirements defined by the water customer service codes.
We also published our first better practice guide with examples of better practice approached to family violence support. This guide contained examples of policies, including the commission's own family violence policy for staff.
We audited water businesses for compliance with the water customer service code We also began our family violence resources review for the energy retail sector, collaborating with energy retailers, water businesses and family violence experts.
In October 2018 we released an issues paper exploring ways energy retailers can provide family violence assistance that is
safe and effective.
We announced changes to the Energy Retail Code that will come into effect on 1 January 2020. These changes aim to give customers affected by family violence an entitlement to safe, supportive and flexible assistance in managing their personal and financial security.
We published our revised better practice guide with in-depth case examples from across multiple industries. We also reported on the outcomes for customers following the family violence changes to the water customer service codes.
At the Victorian energy open forum on 27 August 2019, we spoke to energy industry stakeholders about our family violence work.
Regular community roundtables kept the commission abreast of the changing nature of consumer issues, including family violence, throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Our work in family violence reforms won the Innovative Regulation Award at the Institute of Public Administration's Leadership in the Public Sector Awards.
Legislative amendments took effect during December 2021 and March 2022, and the family violence provisions of the updated Energy Retail Code of Practice became enforceable with a broader range of enforcement options, including penalty notices and civil litigation.
The commission also updated its compliance and enforcement policy to ensure that all customers are treated fairly and that trust is enhanced in the markets and sectors that the commission regulates.
On 26 May 2022 we released three reports that provide better practice responses to victim survivors of family violence.
The guidance in the reports can be applied and adapted by essential service providers and other businesses to enable safe and appropriate responses to consumers experiencing family violence and to support better practice engagement with survivor advocates.
These reports were developed during 2020-21 through our partnership with Safe and Equal, in collaboration with the University of Melbourne’s Safer Families Centre and the University’s WEAVERS (Women and children who have Experienced Abuse and Violence: Advisors and Researchers) lived experience group.
A guide to businesses implementing family violence responses
This better practice guide aims to support businesses to implement safe and effective family violence responses. In this guide we highlight innovative, cross-sector industry examples that may go beyond the minimum requirements of our energy and water codes.
Multisector family violence resources
Developed in partnership with Safe and Equal, and in collaboration with the University of Melbourne's Safer Families Centre, these reports provide practical guidance on engaging with victim-survivors in our work. The reports also provide guidance to support better practice among essential service providers and other businesses.
Energy and water family violence resources
View our report on the outcomes for customers following the family violence changes to the water customer service codes.
Discussion paper that first proposed our principles and actions of safe and effective support.
First iteration of the better practice guide, showing options for first steps towards family violence assistance. Also includes sample family violence policy from Yarra Valley Water.
Changes to our rules for customers affected by family violence
View documents that outline changes we made to energy and water codes in relation to our family violence work.
Our final decision outlines requirements for water businesses to provide assistance to customers affected by family violence.
Our final decision outlines requirements for energy retailers to provide assistance to customers affected by family violence.
Presentations from family violence workshops
Articles and speeches on our family violence work
A speech by Dr Ron Ben-David, Essential Services Commission Chairperson, to the family violence resources review forum on 30 August 2018.
Addressing family violence is an extraordinarily complex challenge that requires the combined efforts of government, regulatory and family violence support services.
Projects to develop our family violence reforms
We are developing resources for energy retailers outlining how they can support customers experiencing economic abuse associated with family violence.
Changes to customer service codes for water businesses were part of our response to one of 227 recommendations from the Royal Commission into Family Violence.
We updated the energy rules to better protect residential customers anticipating or facing payment difficulty.
We have reported on the outcomes for customers following the family violence changes to the water customer service codes.