Domestic Violence Helpline Remodel Finds Success
2 February 2017 at 10:21 am
A dramatic improvement in response times by the national domestic violence helpline for women experiencing sexual assault, domestic and family violence has been credited to a new “first-response” model – despite a significant increase in demand.
1800RESPECT said that since December 2016 calls to its helpline had increased by over 30 per cent compared to the same time last year.
At the same time, the organisation said the number of calls answered by 1800RESPECT increased by 410 per cent and the average time callers had to wait to speak to a counsellor decreased by 95 per cent.
1800RESPECT general manager Gabrielle Denning-Cotter told Pro Bono News the implementation of a new first-response model for the counselling service in August last year meant the helpline was able to meet increasing demand and improve responsiveness.
“The new model is like a triage system in a large hospital emergency centre,” Denning-Cotter said.
“In the first-response model we see qualified counsellors answering all of the calls quickly and conducting an initial needs assessment and depending on the needs of the caller they are passed through to specialist counsellors or what ever else is needed.”
She said that in December 2016 the helpline answered more calls in that month alone (6,309) than were answered in the last six months of 2015 (5,289).
“The average call waiting time has reduced from over 10 minutes in 2015/16 to approximately 40 seconds now,” she said.
“If the caller needs immediate access to say a service where they need to be immediately removed, our counsellors can connect them through to appropriate service in their area or provide them with a referral or do the transfer.”
Denning-Cotter said the new model, including an increase in phone counsellors, was introduced following an independent review that examined ways to reduce call wait times and the number of calls going unanswered while maintaining the high quality of the service.
A new online chat service was also launched in October 2016.
“The early data on the new online chat model is also encouraging, indicating that it is a valued service particularly for young people seeking information about healthy relationships or counselling support,” she said.
Not-for-profit workers in the area of welfare and domestic violence were also taking advantage of the service.
“We get a lot of calls from frontline workers seeking information about when someone may disclose violence, what advice should they give and what referral information they should give. So our counsellors have got that on hand so they can support frontline workers with what they need,” Denning-Cotter said.
“The high number of callers shows there is a high respect for the service and there is a high confidence in the service. We know from the calls that they are so relieved that they are getting through so quickly. Some of those callers would have called before and they would have had the longer wait times.
“We have also had a lot of feedback from the sector. They are now confident that calls will be answered quickly and they are referring more people to the helpline. Community attitudes have also changed and many more people are reaching out for support and so everything is coming together at once.”
1800RESPECT is funded by the Australian government department of social services under its national plan to reduce violence against women and children.
The organisation is also holding a series of free webinars for frontline staff. The upcoming February webinar is Workplace Responses to Gender Based Violence.