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Think about the last time you had to apply for a public benefit or service like unemployment insurance, childcare or mental health care. In most OECD countries, these processes require knowledge of how to access a benefit, time, patience and a good deal of paperwork.
Imagine doing one of these time- and resource-intensive applications under the threat of personal injury to yourself or your children. And maybe you are doing this without a safe place to live, or as you are running out of money.
Now imagine having to do all of these public benefit applications under these precarious and extremely stressful circumstances.
This is the situation for many women escaping intimate partner violence (IPV). Women victims/survivors of IPV have complex needs both during and after experiences of violence. Threats to their health include physical injuries, sexually transmitted infections, unintended pregnancies, pregnancy complications, mental health problems, homicide and suicide.
Far too often, the problem of gender-based violence is met with insufficient funding and inadequate co-ordination across the many stakeholders involved.
Victims/survivors also often need legal advice, housing support and help for their children across a diverse range of services from government and other providers. Different policy and service delivery spheres such as health, housing, justice, employment and education must work together seamlessly.
Far too often, however, the problem of gender-based violence is met with insufficient funding and inadequate co-ordination across the many stakeholders involved.
Our recent report, Supporting lives free from intimate partner violence: Towards better integration of services for victims/survivors, explores a critical component of any public policy response to violence: integrated service delivery (ISD) for women victims/survivors of IPV. The findings are drawn from a comprehensive survey of 35 OECD governments and a consultation with non-governmental service providers in 12 OECD countries.
Read the full report: Supporting Lives Free from Intimate Partner Violence Towards Better Integration of Services for Victims/Survivors
The report finds that ISD is most frequently introduced at entry points in health care, emergency housing and police services. These sectors are increasingly interconnected and have linkages to income support, child-related services and legal assistance. Many of these ISD practices rely on case management, referral systems and/or physically co-located delivery.
To promote ISD on the ground, governments must adopt a whole-of-state approach to gender equality generally and gender-based violence specifically. This means ensuring reliable, adequate and well-organised funding for co-ordinated services. It also requires policy coherence across agencies and levels of government so that policies reinforce each other. Local governance of ISD is crucial given that service delivery often occurs at the subnational level, yet central governments nevertheless play a key role in promoting ISD – for example by providing funding and frameworks for joint work.
While OECD governments have trialled and implemented a whole range of ISD strategies—especially across the sectors of health, housing and justice—very few of these programmes have been rigorously evaluated.
This report also finds that data-sharing capabilities across agencies must be strengthened, as data sharing can reduce clients’ application costs (in time and energy); minimise the trauma associated with recounting violent events to different providers; and improve client safety by better tracking risks across repeated incidents of violence. Ideally, such a system would also integrate perpetrator-related interventions as a means of tracking accountability and recidivism. Of course, any data sharing strategy must include strong privacy protections to ensure victims/survivors’ security.
While OECD governments have trialled and implemented a whole range of ISD strategies—especially across the sectors of health, housing and justice—very few of these programmes have been rigorously evaluated. Better and more regular programme evaluations are essential to understand whether and to what degree integrated approaches work better than more siloed strategies.
Most importantly, a trauma-informed, victim/survivor-centred approach is crucial. Clear lines of communication must connect local service providers with national policy makers to enable better and more victim/survivor-centred service delivery. Such approaches could include regular stakeholder engagements or surveys to promote the co-creation of good policies. At the same time, a focus on perpetrators is critical, too. Governments must prevent the reoccurrence of violence and make sure that perpetrators are held accountable. Governments can work with perpetrators not only through the criminal justice system, but also in multi-dimensional ways that can improve offender accountability and potentially produce long-term behavioural and cultural change.
Gender-based violence has been, and continues to be, one of the greatest human rights challenges facing OECD governments. It is beyond time for governments to commit to planning, funding and administering a co-ordinated policy response that puts victims/survivors at the centre of comprehensive service delivery.
To learn more, read also the policy briefs 'Integrating services to address intimate partner violence' and 'When home is not a safe haven'
And read more on the Forum Network: What Governments Can Do About Tech-Enabled Abuse and Stalkerware by Eva Galperin, Director of Cybersecurity, Electronic Frontier Foundation; Founder, The Coalition Against Stalkerware
As digital technology becomes an ubiquitous part of people’s everyday lives, so do the opportunities for tech-enabled abuse. It is high time to join forces to end this form of domestic violence, and governments have a critical role to play.