What is the project about?
The Increasing the Odds for Safety and Respect project is an early intervention and prevention project in which staff from Women’s Health East & Women’s Health In the North are working with family violence and problem gambling service providers across the eastern and northern metropolitan areas of Melbourne to share knowledge about the link between family violence and problem gambling.
The project aims to strengthen; the relationships between the sectors, risk assessment mechanisms, referral pathways and service delivery and, in doing so, increase the safety of women experiencing violence from male partners. The project evolved from a growing recognition that there is a relationship between problem gambling and family violence, but that it is not yet well understood, nor is it comprehensively addressed at the prevention or response level. Current service delivery structures do not always provide an integrated response to women experiencing violence in homes where there is problem gambling, and there are no formal referral pathways between the problem gambling and family violence services in Victoria. Similarly there are no current prevention strategies in Victoria that specifically address both family violence and problem gambling.
There is a history of research highlighting the co-occurrence of problem gambling and family violence. A recent Australian study by Suomi and her colleagues describes high levels of family violence within families presenting for help at problem gambling services. The study found that intra-familial violence occurred in more than half of cases where there was help seeking for problem gambling. Results also indicated that there was a gendered basis to this violence, with female participants more likely to be the victims and less likely to report ‘no family violence’ in comparison to males. Furthermore, findings suggest that problem gambling can precede both victimisation and perpetration of family violence. The research supports the notion that problem gambling contributes to family violence perpetration as a manifestation of financial stress and crisis within the home. The Increasing the Odds for Safety and Respect project draws on this research as a rationale for looking more closely at the relationship between family violence and problem gambling.
Whilst there is an increasing body of literature showing a relationship between problem gambling and family violence, there has been little research into best practice service provision for families where both family violence and problem gambling are present. The small body of research that does exist has led to recommendations that an integrated response to these issues be developed. For example, Korman and his colleagues emphasised the importance, “of routinely screening gambling clients for anger and interpersonal violence, and the need to develop public policy, prevention and treatment programs to address interpersonal violence among problem gamblers.” Prior to this research, Community West in 2007 in their report Exploring the Links between Family Violence and Problem Gambling (Volume 1 and Volume 2) recommended cross training and cross agency discussion on these issues[i]. Likewise, there is minimal research into the link between financial abuse, women’s financial literacy and problem gambling.
This project, whilst primarily projecting a prevention focus, will begin to answer the question of what the link between family violence and problem gambling looks like from the perspective of service providers and women, and will also begin to look at the link between financial abuse and problem gambling. This will in turn pave the way for future research into these questions.
As indicated above, recent Australian research describes high levels of family violence within families presenting for support at problem gambling services. Whilst there is currently no research indicating the level of problem gambling within families who present for help at family violence services, it can be hypothesised that the first point of contact for families who are affected by both problem gambling and family violence may be either problem gambling or family violence services, and that problem gambling can be viewed as a contributing factor to family violence.
Problem gambling sector
A primary aim of the project is to ensure that the problem gambling sector is able to recognise situations in which violence is occurring within their clients’ families, and respond appropriately. Family violence services work within a particular model that prioritises the safety of women and children and recognises the complexities of the issue and the difficulties women face in escaping violence. The project will look at ways in which training about family violence issues would be appropriate and useful within problem gambling services.
Family violence sector
Likewise, it is useful for gambling related harm to be identified and addressed by the family violence sector. Significant reforms have occurred in this sector over past years, resulting in a more consistent, streamlined approach to risk assessment, referral and support, but as yet problem gambling is not acknowledged within the family violence risk assessment frameworks in Victoria. The project aims to leverage off the existing systems and procedures so that problem gambling issues can be identified in the risk assessment of women who are experiencing family violence to ensure that appropriate responses are developed and implemented.
The work outlined above aims to reduce the harms from violence and gambling once these problems have already occurred within families, and therefore provides the secondary prevention (harm minimisation) component of the project.
VicHealth has recognised gender inequity is a key determinant of violence against women, and primary prevention in this area requires gender equity strategies to be delivered across all section of society. In recent years, women’s health services in Victoria have taken the lead in delivering gender equity workshops to a broad range of organisations. As part of this project, gender equity workshops will also be offered to organisations in the catchment areas, which consider that applying a gendered lens to their work would be useful in planning primary prevention programs and activities in the areas of problem gambling and family violence, and in their work with clients.
The primary prevention component of the project will also involve the development and implementation of pilot initiatives, such as a small series of awareness raising education sessions around gender equity, problem gambling and family violence, with identified ‘at risk’ community groups.
How it works
The project began with consultations with services and prevention bodies across the northern and eastern metropolitan regions of Melbourne, to share knowledge about the ways in which problem gambling co-occurs with family violence. The consultations outcomes are assisting in identifying settings in which to undertake the primary and secondary prevention activities. They have also provided an opportunity for participants to indicate the resources that might best assist them to understand the relationship between problem gambling and family violence, and to undertake primary and secondary prevention work. Furthermore the consultations helped to identify suitable sites in which to gather ‘snapshot’ data around the co-occurrence of problem gambling and family violence.
Project staff are now working with the relevant organisations to develop training packages, resources and prevention initiatives to be delivered in the northern and eastern metropolitan regions of Melbourne, to service providers and community groups.
Once these avenues have been explored, project staff will work with the relevant organisations to develop training packages, resources and prevention initiatives to be delivered in the north and eastern regions of Melbourne. Further input will be sought from the Advisory Group, consisting of the project partners and other service sector agencies, and informed by Women’s Health East’s and Women’s Health In the North’s past work on the prevention of violence against women, financial literacy and gender equity.
Women’s Health In the North, Women’s Heath East, Inner East Primary Care Partnership and North East Primary Care Partnership are the project partners. Funding has been secured from the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation from July 2014 to July 2015.
[i] [i] Community West (2007). Exploring the Links Between Family Violence and Problem Gambling, Vols. 1 and 2. Community West.