New Zealand Department of Corrections
Family Violence Programme & Innovative Resources & Development
We will definitely be using some of the tools and techniques we learnt about. I appreciated the approach to the learning (therapeutic approach) and feel that it will greatly assist and encourage me in my work.
NZ Corrections Staff Member
Family violence (FV) has, over the last 40 years, emerged from behind closed doors and is now recognised as a major social problem in most jurisdictions. Since the ‘discovery’ of child physical abuse by Henry Kempe in the 1960’s, child sexual abuse, violence against women, sexual abuse of boys and girls in institutional care, and abuse of the elderly have become common issues workers face in their practice.
Within New Zealand we now have close to thirty years of experience developing and delivering programmes to address various aspects of family violence. In that time significant progress has been made to understand and respond to this vexing issue. Most programmes are run by community based organisations affiliated to Te Kupenga Whakaoti Mahi Patunga, National Network of Stopping Violence under contract from New Zealand Department of Corrections.
Few evaluation studies on family violence programmes have been undertaken. Those that have been undertaken have assessed both Duluth-type and cognitive behavioural programmes or a combination of the two. Research to date has yielded mixed results as to the effectiveness of family violence programmes; however there appear to be few or no significant differences in effectiveness between programme types. At best, programmes appear to have a weak positive impact on recidivism rates.
Literature suggests that alcohol abuse may be a more significant risk factor in family violence than in other forms of offending. It is also suggested that family violence offenders may have multiple complex needs that are not addressed effectively in current family violence interventions. Literature also suggests that certain subgroups (such as women, forensic clients and youth) may present with specific needs and/or responsivity issues that need to be addressed, therefore a ‘one size fits all’ approach may not be appropriate.
Besides the issue of low adherence to the RNR approach in existing family violence programmes, there were a number of other identified problems which strengthen the rationale for a fresh approach. These include:
- Mixing programme participants with different reoffending risk levels in the same programme can ‘contaminate’ lower risk people and, in fact, increase their likelihood of reoffending.
- High attrition rates within existing programmes is linked not only to higher risk of reoffending, but is also a significant resource waste.
- Over-representation of indigenous men in family violence statistics and the need for programmes to be more responsive to and effective with this group.
HMA was selected to lead the design given our experience in both the family violence area of practice as well as in designing criminal justice interventions in the sex offender and general offending areas.
After a consultation process which meetings in five central locations, a decision was made to adopt a risk, need, responsivity approach to the programme design. The primary outcome being sought was a reduction in family violence by those attending and completing the community-based family violence programme (CFVP). This overarching goal was underpinned by a number of key strategies:
- Application of RNR principles to FV, which effectively means:
- Matching the intensity of the intervention to the level of risk that an offender is assessed as having (this is the ‘risk’ principle);
- Targeting criminogenic needs or dynamic risk factors which are known to contribute to family violence offending (the ‘needs’ principle);
- When dynamic risk factors are targeted appropriately, these risk factors can be altered positively;
- Delivering the programme using a CBT and social learning approach which also accommodates the learning styles, capability and characteristics of offenders (the ‘responsivity’ principle).
- Delivering the CFVP as it is designed so that what is known to be effective in reducing reoffending risk actually gets facilitated in sessions. This is known as the ‘integrity principle’.
- Improved retention in the programme through a strong focus on engagement of participants from the outset, fostering active collaboration between the Probation Officer, programme provider and the participant, involvement of the family and whanau as a key audience for change, and improved cultural responsiveness.
- Responsiveness to Māori will be improved through a focus on whanau wellbeing as a place in which family violence cannot legitimately exist. The CFVP takes the position that whanau wellbeing obligates an individual to consider the wider impacts of their actions not only on themselves, but also on their partner, children, wider whanau and community. Participants will be invited to continuously reflect on how their choices and actions might strengthen or weaken the elements of whanau wellbeing through the lens provided by Te Whare Tapa Wha and other cultural concepts and knowledge.
The programme is structured into 24 sessions in addition to a robust front-end assessment around risk in order to adequately match into the programme design.
 For a complete review of the RNR principles and accumulated research evidence that supports these principles, the reader is referred to the key primary source of this evidence – Andrews & Bonta (2010).
The Return on Expectation
A number of key outcomes will have been achieved by the end of the project. Firstly a consistent programme will have been delivered for Corrections clients in all sites (community, prison and Community Probation). This will assist with integrity and consistency of delivery.
Secondly, agencies will have received e-learning along with five days of in-room skill based training to deliver the programme. This upskilling of the field is a good investment in the workforce delivering interventions in the area. Investing in professional development means that people are better equipped to undertake the role and also remain in respective roles for a longer time.
More robust front-end assessment training is the third outcome. It will allow for better targeting of the key drivers of family violence behaviours and as such outcome measures around ameliorating these influences can be undertaken.
Take a look at what else people had to say:
Ken was very easy to listen to, very knowledgeable and conveyed the concepts superbly.
Excellent depth of information provided on the relevant programme models. Ken has excellent knowledge, information, pace and explanations of content.