Domestic Violence Policy Manual

Foreword

Domestic violence remains a significant concern that impacts negatively on the lives of our community. Not only those that are directly subjected to the violence and abuse, but extended family, friends, neighbours, school and religious communities, the list goes on. Is there anyone who can say domestic violence has not presented in their lives, no matter how distant the relationship?

The information contained in this Manual will assist Housing ACT staff in their support of women across all aspects of Housing ACT service delivery, both where there are suspected concerns of domestic violence and where a woman identifies domestic violence in her own and often her children’s lives.

The Manual addresses a broad range of ACT Housing Policy and Procedure specifically as it relates to domestic violence. The fact that this Manual is specific in relation to domestic violence is the key to why it should prove to be so valuable in assisting staff to assist women. ACT Housing across a range of areas, varies its approach if domestic violence is identified or suspected as an issue.

I consider it critical that ACT Housing staff be able to access comprehensive, up to date, accessible domestic violence housing information. This Manual will assist in achieving exactly that, women’s lives do not come in neat, identical packages. The housing needs of one woman will not generally be the same as the needs of another.

I believe the Manual will also assist other government and community service providers who require timely, clarifying information for a client. It is vital that service providers have access to correct information from Housing ACT.

Many community members would not recognise the front line, key role that ACT Housing staff hold in assisting women, and their children, who have been subjected to domestic violence. People would more likely identify police, Domestic Violence Crisis Service (DVCS), women’s refuges, medical services, just to name some that may more readily come to mind.

From my experience, ACT Housing should be, indeed must be, included on the list of front line services. Housing is essential to women and their children’s safety and well-being. Many women will make housing their first priority. The circumstance might be that they are either seeking a new allocation from ACT Housing or their current ACT Housing home is unsafe.

Alternatively, they may have accumulated housing debt because of the domestic violence or the house is in great need of repair, again because of the domestic violence. Women may be seeking a transfer, sometimes because they believe that will bring them some safety but sometimes because they do not want to live, nor want their children to live, in the house where the violence occurred. These and other matters are addressed in this Manual.

Domestic violence requires multiple agency and community responses. There is no single service that can respond effectively to the full range and complexity of needs that present when domestic violence is identified. ACT Housing, as a front line agency, must continue to provide leadership and collaborate with government and community agencies.

Working together provides us with the best opportunity to ensure the needs of women and children who have been living with domestic violence are responded to appropriately and that the responses are timely and accessible. The ACT Housing Domestic Violence Manual is a step forward in working towards this aim.

It is my pleasure and privilege to provide my endorsement on behalf of DVCS for the first Housing ACT Domestic Violence Policy Manual. I also acknowledge the priority that ACT Housing Executive have been attributing to domestic violence housing issues, a priority that has been particularly evident to DVCS over the past few years.

Dennise Simpson
Manager
Domestic Violence Crisis Service (DVCS)

Section One - Introduction

Section Two - Domestic Violence Service Delivery Framework

Section Three - Procedures

Section Four - Practice information

Section Five - Relevant Housing ACT legislation and business rules

Section One - Introduction

Through the lens of a multi-system approach, the impact of domestic violence on women, children and young people can be exacerbated or ameliorated by the structures, policies and procedures of a broad range of social and legal systems including housing.

Domestic violence is a whole of community issue and requires a whole of community and multi-system response. The Housing ACT Domestic Violence Service Delivery Framework acknowledges the range of critical roles Housing ACT has responsibility for in responding to domestic violence. The framework confirms our commitment to delivering sensitive and effective responses to victims of domestic violence from crisis to safe sustained tenancies. By clearly stating our commitments to providing assistance to women and children escaping domestic violence and by ensuring that our policies and procedures are consistent, we are better placed to work with our clients to ameliorate the immediate and longer term effects of domestic violence.

Housing ACT acknowledges the specialist work and the expertise of our community partners who provide support, information, accommodation and assistance to women and children escaping domestic violence. These services play a critical role in the whole of service response to domestic violence. Housing ACT is committed to working in partnership with these agencies to ensure effective responses to domestic violence.

Domestic violence impacts on all members of the family including children and young people. The effects of domestic violence often continue well after a woman and her children have left the situation of violence. Understanding the dynamics and effects of domestic violence is critical for an effective response to domestic violence.

HACT takes the dynamics and impacts of domestic violence on women and children into consideration in developing and implementing its policy and procedure.

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Definition

“Domestic violence is an abuse of power perpetrated mainly (but not only) by men against women in a relationship or after separation.” Domestic violence is about far more than physical violence. It is about systematic, patterned and repeated abuse of power and control.

Domestic Violence is the use of a range of behaviours to exert power and control over others which cause the victims to live in fear. It includes overt behaviour (such as violence) and covert behaviour (such as controlling someone’s contact with family and friends or controlling access to finances).

Domestic violence takes a number of forms. Including:

  • Physical abuse- including kicking, hitting, punching etc
  • Sexual abuse- including rape, threats of sexual abuse, forced compliance in degrading acts, indecent assaults etc
  • Emotional abuse- the use of language, threats and insults to denigrate and degrade someone. It can include the threat of violence to others such as children.
  • Economic abuse- including the control and/or withdrawal of access to the families resources
  • Social abuse or forced isolation- including conduct which causes contact with family and friends to be curtailed or to cease.
  • Intimidation, threats and stalking-including harassing phone calls, following a person etc

Domestic violence occurs across all groups and cultures within our community and affects the physical, social and economic wellbeing of women, men and children. Housing ACT recognises that women and children form the overwhelming majority of victims of domestic violence, while also acknowledging that men can and do experience domestic violence.

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Roles and responsibilities within Housing ACT

Each business unit of Housing ACT has a range of responsibilities in relation to domestic violence along the continuum from crisis to sustained safe tenancies.

  • Social Housing and Homelessness Services is responsible for managing funding contracts and relationships with our community partners who provide crisis support and accommodation services to people who have experienced domestic violence and/or homelessness. This unit works to ensure there are appropriate and responsive services available through the support and accommodation system from crisis to sustained tenancies and that community partners are operating consistently with both ACT and Commonwealth strategic directions for homelessness service provision.
  • Gateway Services is responsible for the management and provision of sensitive non-judgemental application and assessment processes and the allocation (including early allocation) of safe and secure housing to women and children fleeing violence in their homes. Gateway also has a role to play in assisting and facilitating women to access supports in their community through the provision of case conferences.
  • Property services are responsible for assisting women and children to feel safer in their homes via the provision of additional safety and security measures where required. This process is supported by an MOU between domestic violence support services and HACT.
  • Tenancy services are responsible for the ongoing tenancy management of properties (including safety). They have a critical role to play in the early identification of domestic violence during routine property visits and routine management of tenancies (such as identifying patterns of debt that coincide with the presence of a partner). Tenancy managers also play a key role in facilitating priority transfers which are often vital in ensuring safety for women and children who have experienced domestic violence. Once domestic violence is identified, tenancy managers are responsible for providing referrals to additional supports, including referrals to the Client Service Coordinators (CSC’s). The CSC’s have a critical role to play in early intervention and the provision of support in relation to domestic violence and HACT tenants. They are responsible for ensuring appropriate referrals are offered to a family to assist them to obtain a level of safety and security in their lives. This may include assisting women to access financial support through Centrelink or accompanying women to meetings with support agencies to facilitate the referral. The CSC’s also have a significant role to play in the assessment and recommendation for transfers including organising case conferences for all priority transfers related to domestic violence. (See priority transfer process in this document).
  • Business development is responsible for the development and ongoing revision of policy and procedure within HACT, to ensure these are up to date and reflect current best practice responses to women and children escaping domestic violence.
  • Operational Services is responsible for supporting applications for changes to tenancies to allow women and children who are victims of domestic violence to stay in their property.
  • Financial unit with advice from business unitsis responsible for taking the dynamics and impacts of domestic violence into account into the assessment of debt, both from TRM and rental debt, including the effect of poverty which often occurs for women and children who have escaped domestic violence.
  • Learning and Community Education is responsible for the provision of training and education to staff about issues related to domestic violence. This includes working in partnership with DVCS for the provision of training. It also includes providing training in relation to the HACT Domestic Violence Policy Manual.
  • OMATSIA is responsible for ensuring that the specific needs of people from Multicultural or Indigenous and Torres Strait background are considered in the development of policy related to domestic violence. They are also responsible for ensuring that the policy of the department in relation to domestic violence is passed on to the relevant communities and forums with which they interact.
  • Management at all levels of the department is responsible for the sensitive implementation of procedures in relation to domestic violence. They are also responsible for ensuring staff are appropriately trained and that staff and management attitudes and actions reflect the commitments and principles of the department in relation to domestic violence. Management is also responsible for ensuring strategic co-ordination and representation on relevant committees.

Together these roles and responsibilities create a consistent and integrated response to domestic violence within HACT that aims to effectively ‘ameliorate’ the impact of domestic violence for women children and young people.

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Section Two - Domestice Violence Service Delivery Framework

Purpose

This framework outlines the commitments and principles that inform the work of Housing ACT in relation to domestic violence and provides the broader context within which Housing ACT makes decisions about domestic violence.

The framework is more than a policy statement. It is a practical document that translates policy into practice. In this it is a tool to assist workers with decision making and the application of discretion by the Commissioner for Social Housing in matters related to domestic violence. All decisions about domestic violence should be considered in light of their consistency with the principles, commitments and understandings articulated in this document.

Housing ACT understands the critical need for community and government to work together to create an integrated service system that addresses the needs of women and children escaping domestic violence along the continuum from crisis to independence. This manual will also assist our community partners to better understand our principles and procedures as well as the role of Housing ACT in the continuum of support necessary to address domestic violence.

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Principles

Housing ACT in its decision making, policy implementation and daily practices related to domestic violence, is guided by three important and fundamental principles:

  • the immediate and longer term safety for women and children;
  • the best interests of the child; and
  • the responsibility for violence always rests with the perpetrator.

These principles will be considered in all decision making, including any determination and application of discretion by the Commissioner for Social Housing and in the development and application of policy and procedure related to domestic violence within the department.

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Commitments

Housing ACT is committed to its role in assisting to ensure the safety of women and children escaping domestic violence through the provision of safe, secure and affordable housing.

The 2008 report, commissioned by the Commonwealth Government, Women, Domestic and Family Violence and Homelessness (2008), found there are two critical elements in ensuring appropriate responses to victims of domestic violence. These are the need for:

  • safe, secure and affordable housing; and
  • appropriate support across a range of areas.

This report acknowledges that:
these two types of assistance must be the central focus of an integrated long-term approach and commitment to addressing the safety and security of women and children

Housing ACT recognises that it has a significant role to play in the provision of safe, secure and affordable housing for women and children escaping domestic violence. Housing ACT also commits to its role in working with our community and government partners to ensure an integrated response is provided to women and children escaping domestic violence.

Housing ACT is committed to providing sensitive, non-judgemental and responsive service to victims of domestic violence. This commitment to non-judgemental services is underpinned by the belief that responsibility for violence always rests with the perpetrator.

Housing ACT is committed to ensuring their staff have the training that will allow for sensitive and effective responses to domestic violence. HACT is committed to its ongoing training partnership with DVCS to provide such training. In addition, specific procedural training within HACT (such as tenant responsible maintenance, property standards etc) includes information specifically related to domestic violence.

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Understandings

Domestic violence is understood as a system of controlling behaviour, where the purpose is to have power over another by actual or feared violence and demeaning abuse.

Often, though not always, there is a pattern to the abuse, known as ‘the cycle of violence’. Understanding this cycle can assist in understanding the dynamics of domestic violence. (A copy of the ‘cycle of violence’ is included in the Practice Information section of this document).

Domestic violence is the single most common reason people seek support from a homelessness service. This places Housing ACT in a critical position to assist women and children to establish safety and to rebuild their lives following domestic violence. As tenancy managers, HACT also has a key role to play in early identification and intervention.

Housing ACT recognises that in the context of domestic violence, homelessness can result from an inability to live in a home because it is unsafe. We also recognise that the psychological impact of domestic violence can mean that women and children cannot live in the place where the violence occurred.

Women return to situations of violence for many reasons. These reasons can include: fear of the partner, for the sake of children, lack of resources, etc Many women may leave and return many times, cycling in and out of homelessness. Housing ACT acknowledges that this pattern often forms part of the pathway permanently out of abuse. This understanding informs the commitment of HACT to non-judgemental services that place responsibility for violence onto the perpetrators and not the victims.

Issues of safety in relation to domestic violence extend beyond immediate crisis assistance. In many instances the violence increases and women and children are most at risk after they have left the situation. HACT understands that fear for victims and their children is real and consideration of safety needs may extend for many years.

The effects of domestic violence for victims are varied and diverse. However it is possible to identify and understand some common effects of domestic violence. These include: homelessness, poverty, dislocation, fear and anxiety, isolation and lack of social supports, shame, loss of confidence, loss of a sense of self agency, difficulty making decisions. See ‘Practice Information’ in this document for more detailed information on the impacts of domestic violence.

The effects of domestic violence on children are also varied and diverse. Some of the more common effects on children include: withdrawal, attachment issues, hyperactivity, poor socialisation skills, fear and insecurity. See ‘Practice Information’ in this document for more detailed information on the impacts of domestic violence on children.

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Expectations

  • Assistance from HACT, from application to ongoing tenancy management will be provided with appropriate understandings and sensitivity to women and children who have experienced domestic violence.
  • Staff will place responsibility for domestic violence and its effects onto the perpetrators and never the victims.
  • Staff will understand the effects and impact of domestic violence and these understandings will be used to make informed and responsible decisions.
  • Staff will be provided with appropriate training about the effects and dynamics of domestic violence.
  • Staff will exercise delegations in a non-judgemental, sensitive manner that takes into account the effects and impact of domestic violence.
  • Staff will always consider safety when making decisions.
  • All decisions made will consider the best long term interests of children.
  • Information provided by support agencies will be acknowledged as proof of domestic violence (in accordance with Supporting Documentation outlined in this document).

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Commissioner discretion and Hardship

Housing ACT recognises that responding effectively to women and children escaping domestic violence, both to meet their immediate safety needs and their longer term stability, may require flexibility around a range of standard operating procedures. It is most often via the application of discretion by a delegate for the Commissioner for Social Housing, that this flexibility will be enabled.

The Commissioner for Social Housing can waive all criteria for housing assistance using the hardship discretion except for the minimum age criterion. To ensure equity to all applicants for housing assistance, discretion shall only be applied to cases where it can be determined there is ‘severe hardship that cannot be alleviated by any other means’.

Severe hardship- applies in circumstances where an applicant may be experiencing deprivation of the necessities of life, such as safety, food, shelter and essential medical treatment. Women and children escaping domestic violence will often meet the criteria in relation to the need for safety and shelter.

‘By any other means’ requires the Commissioner to be satisfied that access to other resources to alleviate the hardship is not available, such as the ability to afford private rental or the capacity to access finances the perpetrator may be withholding.

The delegation to exercise the Commissioners discretion varies according to the matter to be determined, as outlined in the Housing Assistance Public Rental Housing Assistance Program Delegation 2008 (No 1) (See the ‘Relevant policy and procedure’ section of this document).

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Supporting documentation

All assessments and requests for supporting documentation will be requested in a sensitive non-judgemental manner which acknowledges the trauma and effects of domestic violence and understands that these effects may make talking about the violence and the collection of documentation difficult for our clients.

Housing ACT also understands that some women, particularly women from non-English speaking backgrounds, those in same sex relationships and Indigenous women may face greater difficulties in providing supporting documentation. These women often do not disclose the violence, due to cultural issues, lack of knowledge about services or lack of available and appropriate services.

If a client is unable to provide supporting documentation, particularly where there are concerns for safety, an interview will be undertaken by a senior worker in Gateway Services or a person nominated by the Senior Manager Gateway services. If the Senior Manager supports the application, it will from that time be treated as having provided proof of domestic violence.

Documentation provided in support of assistance in relation to domestic violence does not have to contain explicit details. It should broadly outline the situation and the effects and impact of the domestic violence in order to support the applicant or tenants claims. Housing ACT will endeavour to require supporting documentation to be presented only once, however in some cases additional information may be required to support a particular claim (For example the documentation presented for a priority transfer may not contain the information required to assess domestic violence related damage to property).
Letters from support agencies (consistent with accepted documentation listed below, will be considered to be ‘proof’ of domestic violence.

Housing ACT maintains strong working relationships with those community agencies that provide support and accommodation to women and children escaping domestic violence, through forums such as the Homelessness Forum and the Joint Pathways Group. HACT will ensure that the supporting documentation they provide is consistent with the needs of HACT.

Accepted supporting documentation
Housing ACT will accept ONE of the following as adequate supporting documentation:

  • A current Apprehended Violence Order (AVO)
  • A letter from:
    • The police
    • DVCS
    • A recognised domestic violence/homelessness support or accommodation service. Where there is a lack of clarity about who is a ‘recognised’ service provider, the issue will be resolved by the Senior Manager of the area involved, in consultation with the Senior Manager SHHS.
    • OCYFS

Housing ACT will accept TWO of the following as adequate supporting documentation:

  • A letter from:
    • A solicitor
    • A relevant community welfare support worker
    • A relevant government support worker
    • A social worker
    • A psychiatrist,
    • A family doctor,
    • A drug and alcohol service etc

Additional supporting documentation

Where any additional information is required HACT will approach the support agency not the client, clearly indicating what information is required.

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Privacy and Confidentiality

Housing ACT recognises the need for confidentiality and privacy of all its clients and recognises the increased risk of violence for women and children who have escaped domestic violence.

Confidentiality and privacy of information within HACT is guided by a range of policy, including the CSD Personal Privacy and Access to Records Policy, the Code of Conduct and the Public Sector Management Act.

CSD Personal privacy and access to records policy

This policy makes clear a number of points particularly relevant to confidentiality and privacy for women and children escaping domestic violence. These include:

  • Ensuring that both staff and clients understand the purpose for which information is being collected
  • Ensuring that the information collected is relevant
  • Ensuring that the collection of the information does not “intrude to an unreasonable extent upon the personal affairs of the individual concerned” (page 8).

This policy also makes clear that Housing ACT can make notifications to police or child protection where issues of safety are concerned. This is not a breach of the policy but an inherent and important part of the policy that recognises the role of HACT in ensuring the safety of our clients where ”the disclosure is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to the life or health of the individual concerned or of another person” (p. 11)

Confidentiality and domestic violence
HACT has the capacity in exceptional circumstances to implement additional confidentiality measures in the interests of safety. These include changing identifiers on files or storing files with managers.

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Section Three - Procedures

GATEWAY SERVICES

Eligibility

All applicants applying for housing assistance must meet the social housing eligibility criteria. Consideration can be given to apply discretion in relation to issues such as assets, income and debt where there are cases that clearly fall within the hardship category as outlined above. Any such waivers would require supporting documentation, (consistent with the supporting documentation section above), and would be viewed with consideration for the immediate safety and security of the family and the long term interests of children.
Principle/s- Safety

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Priority/early allocation

Under the Housing Needs Categories determination 2007 (1), women with or without children escaping domestic violence are eligible for priority needs assessment. All applicants seeking assistance on the basis of domestic violence will be required to provide documentation to support their application. (See the supporting documentation section of this policy). The implementation of the Multi-Disciplinary Panel, made up of community and government representatives with relevant expertise, ensures that issues such as domestic violence are given due consideration for priority classification.
Principle/s-Safety

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Interstate residents

Inter state residents may apply for priority housing if they are eligible for social housing AND can demonstrate a compelling need to move to the ACT, such as location of family and support systems, or where they were a prior long-term resident of the ACT.

  • Supporting documentation- as outlined in this policy
  • Procedure- An assessing officer in Gateway services will make an assessment and recommendation to be determined by the Senior Manager Gateway services.
  • Principle/s- Safety

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Refugees or sponsored migrants

A sponsored migrant or refugee may be eligible for assistance if it can be demonstrated that an Assurance of Support arrangement has broken down because of domestic violence and the applicant has been granted a Statutory Income or where a refugee awaiting permanent residency is fleeing domestic violence.

  • Supporting documentation- as outlined in this policy
  • Procedure- An assessing officer in Gateway services will make an assessment and recommendation to be determined by the Senior Manager Gateway services.
  • Principle/s- Safety

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Assets

For many women fleeing domestic violence, the outcome of property settlement may take some time, particularly if it is delayed by the perpetrator as part of a pattern of violence and control over the victim. In the interests of safety or because of the ongoing impact of the domestic violence, many women may forego any attempt to recoup interest in a property.

Any application of discretion will be applied with consideration to safety, security and the best interests of children. Housing ACT Operational Guideline N/2008-171, specifically recognises that in cases of domestic violence, access to part ownership in a property may be waived when determining hardship.

  • Supporting documentation- as outlined in this policy.
  • Procedure- An assessing officer in Gateway services will make an assessment and recommendation to be determined by the Senior Manager Gateway services.
  • Principle/s- Safety

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Property Allocations

Allocation of properties within the priority housing category is based on a needs and suitability basis rather than a chronological order. This allows Housing ACT to better match properties to the needs of the applicant.

Senior Assessing Officers work with Allocations Officers to monitor available properties and match these as best as possible to suitable applicants. Allocations are also based on stock availability and portfolio limitations.

Ongoing assistance in adapting to a property and working to create a sense of safety is an integral part of the support that should be provided by both community agencies and Housing ACT staff.

Housing ACT recognises both the immediate and long term effects of domestic violence on victims and on children and therefore will take into account wherever possible issues such as neighbourhood violence and known domestic violence in an adjacent or nearby property. Allocations officers will consult with the housing manager responsible for the area of a potential allocation to assess these issues prior to a property offer being made.

Principle/s- Safety, best interests of the child

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TENANCY

Priority transfer

A tenant may apply for or be identified as appropriate for a priority transfer due to domestic violence. While the department will take issues of safety into account, it may still be necessary for a tenant to find temporary safe accommodation while a suitable property is identified.

Housing ACT recognises both the immediate and the long term negative effects of domestic violence on victims and on those who have witnessed violence such as children. Housing ACT understands that sometimes the need to transfer may be based on the need for victims and/or children to live somewhere other than the location where the violence occurred. This means a transfer may occur within the area of the original property.

  • Supporting documentation- as outlined in this policy
  • Procedure- Housing managers are to refer all issues related to priority transfer and domestic violence to a CSC. The CSC will convene a case conference attended by the applicant, an assessing officer from Gateway services and any community support agencies. If it is determined by the CSC that a transfer is appropriate, the gateway worker will write up and progress a recommendation to the MDP for approval.
  • Principle/s- Safety, best interests of the child.

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Remaining in the property

Housing ACT is committed to assisting victims of domestic violence to remain in their homes following domestic violence, where it is safe to do so and where that is the wish of the tenant. This is consistent with the strategic directions outlined by the Commonwealth Government through the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement (NAHA) and other policy. Through these strategic policies, the Commonwealth government has made clear that each state and territory must explore and implement policy and procedures that work to increase the number of women and children who remain in their own houses following domestic violence.

Under clause 85 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, if a tenant or joint tenant has been excluded from being at the property by a court order (other than an interim order), the remaining resident or joint tenant may apply for the tenancy to be put into their name. In order to do this, the person seeking to be made the tenant must be eligible for social housing and an application needs to be made to the ACT Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal (ACAT).

Where a tenant is excluded (by court order) from a property for perpetrating domestic violence, Housing ACT is committed to working with the remaining tenant or resident or an organisation working on their behalf in making their application to ACAT.

Principle/s- Safety, responsibility rests with the perpetrator of violence.

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Where one occupant agrees to leave the property

If the tenant or joint tenant is a perpetrator of domestic violence and agrees to leave the property through their own volition, the remaining tenant or resident can make an application to Housing ACT to have a tenancy in their own name in that property.

  • Supporting documentation- written evidence by one occupant indicating their intention to leave the property and requesting they be removed as a tenant from that property.
  • Procedure- As above

Where a property is transferred to a new tenancy because of domestic violence, Housing ACT will undertake an immediate property inspection to determine any damage to the property that may have been caused by the perpetrator of domestic violence. (See transfer flow chart and Tenant responsible maintenance in this document for more information).
Principle/s- Safety, responsibility rests with the perpetrator of violence.

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FINANCE

Waiving prior debt

Housing ACT recognises that economic violence can be a component of domestic violence, where the perpetrator may control and withhold finance and resources as a means of controlling the victim/s. Housing ACT also recognises that women and children escaping domestic violence and experiencing homelessness often end up living in situations of extreme hardship and poverty.

However, the Commissioner for Social Housing does NOT have capacity to waive debt. Any determination to waive a debt owed to the ACT government must be made by a delegate of the ACT Treasurer. This delegate may determine to waive part or all of a debt where domestic violence is proved to have been a component in the accumulation of that debt and where repayment of that debt will cause undue hardship.

  • Evidence- will be consistent with evidence as outlined in this policy.
  • Procedure- In the creation of a new tenancy, consideration may be given to waiver some of any rental arrears where there is evidence (consistent with evidence requirements outlined in this document) that the arrears are a result of domestic violence AND where payment of these arrears will cause extreme hardship, particularly in relation to children. The assessment and recommendation to apply the Commissioners discretion and waive some of the rental arrears will be conducted by either the Manager of Gateway services or a Regional Team Leader Tenancy and forwarded to Manager Account’s receivable for forwarding to ACT treasury for determination.
  • Principle/s- Safety, responsibility for the violence rests with the perpetrator.

Transfer with debt

Prior debt with Housing ACT will NOT preclude a transfer where there are issues of safety for women and children.

Any priority transfer must have involvement with the CSC’s to ensure appropriate supports are available.

  • Supporting documentation- as outlined in this policy.
  • Procedure-. A housing manger who believes a priority transfer is required due to domestic violence must refer the matter to a CSC. The CSC will undertake an assessment and make a recommendation to be forwarded to the Manager Tenancy or the Senior Manager Gateway Services for determination. The involvement of the CSC is a critical opportunity to ensure early intervention and appropriate referrals are made.
  • Principle/s- Safety, best interests of the child, responsibility for the violence rests with the perpetrator.

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Tenant responsible maintenance

Where there is damage to a property caused by domestic violence the following will apply:

  • Evidence required will be consistent with evidence outlined in this policy
  • Procedure- Housing managers will obtain police numbers where applicable (recognising that damage if often done by perpetrators after the victim has left the property and may therefore have no police notification) and provide copies of previously supplied evidence with the file and forward the information to the Manager of Accounts Receivable. The Manager of Accounts receivable will assess the TRM sheet and earmark all TRM that can be attributed to domestic violence. (This includes damage to walls, doors, fittings etc) This amount will be waived from the victims account.
  • Principle/s- Safety, responsibility for the violence rests with the perpetrator.

If property damage is associated with the incidence of domestic violence, Housing ACT may consider pressing charges of wilful damage against the perpetrator. It is expected that the victim will collaborate in providing evidence except where that places the victim at greater risk.

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FLOW CHART - NEW APPLICANT

Flow Chart - New Applicant

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FLOW CHART - EXISTING TENANT PRIORITY TRANSFER

 

Flow Chart - Existing Tenant Priority Transfer

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Section Four - PRACTICE INFORMATION 

THE CYCLE OF VIOLENCE

People's experiences of domestic violence can often follow a pattern known as the Cycle of Violence. However not everyone's experiences are the same. Sometimes a 'phase' does not occur, or two or more 'phases’ can occur simultaneously.
The theory that domestic violence occurs in a cycle was developed in 1979 by Lenore Walker as a result of a study conducted in the United States.
The “cycle of violence” theory helps explain how and why the behaviour of a person who commits domestic and family violence may change so dramatically over time.
The “cycle of violence” theory also provides an understanding to why the person affected by domestic and family violence may remain or return to a violent situation.
The cycle goes through a number of stages.
Cycle of Voilence
Source: Dr Lenore Walker, 1979, USA.

The build-up phase
This phase may begin with normal relations between the people in the relationship, but involves escalating tension marked by increased verbal, emotional or financial abuse.
In non-violent relationships these issues can normally be resolved between the people in the relationship.

The stand over phase
This phase can be extremely frightening for people affected by domestic and family violence.
The behaviour of the person who uses violence in relationships escalates to the point that a release of tension is inevitable.
The person affected may feel that they are ‘walking on egg shells’ and fear that anything they do will cause the situation to deteriorate further.

Explosion
The explosion stage marks the peak of violence in the relationship and can involve criminal assault, terrorizing, serious threats and property damage. The person who commits domestic and family violence experiences a release of tension during an explosion phase, which may become addictive. While perpetrators often report they felt ‘out of control’ during this phase, the assaults overwhelming occur only when in private, suggesting a clear ability to control the violence when in public.

The remorse phase
At the remorse stage, the person who uses domestic and family violence in their relationship feels ashamed of their behaviour or they may be afraid of the consequences.
They may retreat and become withdrawn from the relationship. They may also try to justify or minimise their actions to themselves and to others by claiming that "she made me do it", or "it was only a little slap".

The pursuit phase
At this stage, the person who uses domestic and family violence in relationships promises to the other person, never to be violent again and the violent offender may go through a dramatic personality change.
The person who uses domestic violence may try to make up for their past behaviour during this period and say that other factors have caused them to be violent, for example, work stress, drugs, or alcohol. They may try to win back their partner with gifts and promises and attention, or they may act helpless, saying such things as “I can’t live without you: or “I’ll kill myself”
The person affected by the violence will feel hurt, but possibly relieved that the violence is over.
If these tactics do not work, they can also revert to the use of more threats and violence.

The honeymoon phase
During the honeymoon phase of the cycle of violence, both people in the relationship may be in denial as to how bad the abuse and violence was.
Both people do not want the relationship to end, so are happy to ignore the possibility that the violence could occur again.
This cycle can occur hundreds of times in an abusive relationship. Each stage lasts a different amount of time and the total cycle can take anywhere from a few hours to a year or more to complete. Typically, the violence escalates over time with the interval between each phase shortening. It is common for the honeymoon phase to become shorter, the longer the relationship continues. In some cases, this phase will become non-existent.

Sources- Queensland Police Service, South Australia Police and City of Fremantle

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IMPACT OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

It is important to remember that the impacts of domestic violence will vary for each person. It is also important to remember that domestic violence is not an ‘incident’, it is the systematic, patterned and repeated use of power, which may include the use of physical and sexual violence, and intimidation to gain and maintain control over another person/s.

The broader impacts of domestic violence can include:

  • Isolation -from family and community supports
  • Homelessness
  • Poverty
  • Negative mental health and wellbeing
  • Physical injuries- some leading to long term health issues
  • Suicide
  • Murder

Women may be impacted in the following ways:

  • Confusion and difficulties making decisions
  • Reduced coping and problem solving skills
  • Feelings of powerlessness
  • Fear and anxiety
  • Feel responsible for the violence
  • Depression
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Lack of trust
  • Deep sense of shame and embarrassment
  • Ongoing post traumatic stress disorder and other psychological effects

Children may be impacted in the following ways:

  • Difficulty managing emotions
  • Unruly or rude or aggressive
  • Shy withdrawn, sad, fearful anxious
  • Watchful and hyper vigilant
  • Clinging behaviours
  • Negative self concept
  • Developmental delays
  • Lack of trust
  • Feel responsible for the violence
  • Post traumatic stress disorder and other psychological effects
  • Increased risk of becoming perpetrators and/or victims of violence as adults

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HOW TO RESPOND TO A DISCLOSURE

Housing ACT acknowledges its role as a potential source for early identification and intervention into domestic violence, particularly as regular annual visits to client’s homes by tenancy managers. Housing ACT does not expect its staff to engage as counsellors but as sources for possible referral.

You can always phone DVCS to ask for advice, discuss a matter or talk about how you feel about what you have heard. Of course it is important to do this in a manner that keeps the identity of the client confidential.

It is important to support whatever choices a woman might make, including the choice to stay. It is important to remember that telling someone may be the critical first step in the process that may eventually result in the decision to leave.

If a women discloses domestic violence:

  • Understand how difficult it may have been to tell anyone about the situation and acknowledge her bravery in telling you
  • Immediately assess her safety and that of any children involved. If the need is urgent and the woman consents ring DVCS immediately. If you are out in the field consider both your own and the families safety. If necessary encourage the woman to leave immediately with you and come back to NCH and contact DVCS.
  • If the woman does not consent to ringing DVCS or take any other action, provide her with contact information for DVCS and reassure her of their confidentiality, expertise and accessibility (i.e. that they are empathetic and helpful and non-judgemental etc)
  • Keep in regular contact with the woman

ALWAYS

  • Discuss what happened with a manager
  • Assess with the manager if there is a need for notification in relation to children

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When you suspect DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

  • Let a women know that there are services available in the community who offer a range of support if she ever needed anything
  • Consider having a sticker on a folder or bag that identifies domestic violence as a community issue – this sends a message that you are open to responding to the issue
  • Offer a referral to a generalist service you think may assist with domestic violence if identified, such as a local community service, etc
  • Talk to your manager and/or a CSC about what else you might be able to do about the particular client about which you have concerns.

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Section Five - Relevant Housing ACT legislation and business rules

 Housing Assistance Public rental Housing Assistance Program (Housing Needs Determination 2007 (No 1)

Domestic Violence Modifications Business Rule. Allows for the alteration of window and door locks, lighting and landscape modifications as recommended by specialist Domestic Violence representatives.

Director Housing ACT- Instruction- Appropriate documentation to support applicants suffering from domestic violence. Includes a list of accepted services from which letters of support will be accepted for entry into the priority application system.

Housing ACT Operational Guideline N/2008-171. Allows for Commissioners discretion to waive financial interest in a property in the case of domestic violence.

Housing Assistance Public rental Housing Assistance Program, (Hardship) Operation Guideline 2008 (No 1). –Allows for safety to be a consideration in determining ‘hardship’

(Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse Issue paper 2. 2000, p.15).

Domestic Violence Clearinghouse Issue Paper 2. 2000; p.1)

Flinders University. Women, Domestic and Family Violence and Homelessness. A Synthesis Report. Prepared for the Office for Women, Department of Families, Housing and Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. August 2008, p.v.

Ibid, p.3.

(WA Department for Communities-Family and domestic violence prevention unit. Best Practice Model. P.27)

Op cit, 2008. p.1

Op.cit., 2008, p.17.

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