Inter-agency alignment of family violence programmes
Principal Adviser Family Violence, Department of Corrections
Victoria has worked across the justice sector, including stints as a senior advisor in the Victims Centre in the Ministry of Justice and Crown Counsel (Policy) in the Crown Law Office.
An integrated and effective system for addressing family violence that is aligned across government agencies is key to ensuring positive outcomes for families/whānau affected by family violence.
In January 2018, Corrections and the Ministry of Justice published a joint Request For Proposals for aligned family violence programmes. Both agencies agreed to the same service specifications, funding models, auditing, reporting and contract management approach, for new non-violence programmes for perpetrators of family violence.
Following a successful open tender, 48 providers were selected to deliver culturally responsive programmes in all locations across New Zealand. The alignment of non-violence programmes promises to deliver benefits of increased programme effectiveness and cultural responsiveness, with benefits for contracted service providers of funding parity and stability, increased programme flexibility, and decreased administrative burden.
This aligned way of contracting family violence programmes, and the joint procurement exercise to procure the new programmes, is a new way of working for both the family violence sector, and wider public sector. The success of this ground-breaking project provides a blueprint for how other agencies can work together to create more efficient and effective ways of delivering services.
In July 2015 the Ministers of Justice and Social Development announced a new work programme for family and sexual violence. This work programme was to be led by the Ministerial Group on Family and Sexual Violence, made up of 16 Ministers and Associate Ministers and chaired by the Ministers of Justice and Social Development.
To coordinate and drive that work programme, a Multi-Agency Team (MAT) was established. The work programme of the MAT was (and continues to be) wide ranging, including work streams on services, commissioning and workforce development, among others.
Under the leadership of the MAT, a cross-agency work stream focusing on services delivered to perpetrators of family violence identified the range of interventions that target individuals’ risk factors (and address any barriers to accessing support) by identifying the optimum service mix for effective perpetrator interventions. A focus of this work stream was to identify ways to contribute to the streamlining of government contractual and reporting requirements to make the system easier for providers to navigate and administer.
A set of shared Service Specifications for perpetrator interventions were developed and endorsed by all agencies involved in this work stream, presented to and approved by the Ministerial Group on 21 June 2017.
In June 2017 Justice and Corrections (the purchasing agencies) agreed in principle to align their family violence perpetrator interventions delivered in the community, using the shared service specifications as the foundation for new aligned programmes. These programmes are now referred to as Non-Violence Programmes (NVP). Current contracts for community-delivered Family Violence Programmes were extended to 30 June 2018, with new aligned programmes going live on 1 July 2018.
Family violence programmes pre-July 2018
Pre-July 2018, Justice and Corrections were essentially purchasing programmes based on the same methodology, from the same service providers, requiring the same outcomes, and paying a different rate for that service.
There are many similarities in perpetrator cohorts across the agencies, as the difference between them hinges on the point in time at which they are referred to a programme (either while they are going through the court system, or later when they are in the Corrections system). However, there is one key difference in perpetrator cohorts: though Corrections refer only low-moderate risk family violence offenders to these programmes, Justice refer all offenders regardless of risk level. This is because Corrections has more intense rehabilitative programmes available for higher risk perpetrators, whereas Justice does not.
Programme similarities and differences
Service providers delivering a family violence programme pre-July 2018 for Justice and/or Corrections were all required to deliver a programme based on the principles of Risk, Need and Responsivity, which addresses violent offending in a familial relationship. The difference in programme delivery between the agencies really came down to flexibility in programme content and delivery.
Justice used their Domestic Violence Code of Practice as a foundation document for their programmes. All programmes delivered for Justice needed to meet the specifications in the Code, but the precise way in which those programmes are delivered and the exact content of the programmes can differ to meet the needs of the participants. Programmes could be up to 50 hours in length. In contrast, Corrections required providers to deliver a manualised programme over 52 hours with little or no flexibility in content or delivery. This was referred to as the Family Violence Programme (FVP).
Service provider market
The service provider market was (and still is) made up of over 100 community based non-governmental providers (predominantly not-for-profits) delivering a range of family violence programmes and services to men, women and children across New Zealand. These services include non-violence programmes for perpetrators and safety programmes for adult and child victims. Those providers range from sole trader/facilitators arrangements to large regional and national organisations delivering a range of social services – though the overwhelming majority are small not-for-profits.
Justice, Corrections and the Ministry of Social Development are the key buyers of non-violence programmes. In 2016/17, 96 different providers were contracted by Corrections, Justice, or both to deliver programmes for perpetrators of family violence.
One of the key differences between the purchasing agencies was the hourly rate to providers to deliver family violence programmes. Both agencies used a fee for service model, but the fee paid differed between agencies.
What does alignment actually mean?
For the purchasing agencies, alignment means sharing a key set of agreed elements:
- Both agencies will pay the same fee for service rate
- Both agencies agreed to a base contract term of three years, plus two additional one year rights of renewal, for a potential total of five years (3 + 1 + 1)
- Both agencies will allow increased flexibility of programme delivery, including:
- A shared programme length of 40 hours
- Programme content guided by shared Service Specifications, which outline the key requirements of NVPs
- Providers can mix participants from each agency (as well as participants from other referral pathways) in any ratio in group programmes.
- Both agencies will use the same templates for invoicing and reporting
- Contract management activities will be shared where appropriate
- Monitoring, auditing and quality assurance activities will be jointly undertaken by both agencies.
Both agencies retain and administer their own funding from separate Votes, and there are separate Outcome Agreements for each agency to satisfy the different legislative requirements under which each agency operates. Those Outcome Agreements will look as similar as possible, with agency differences clearly flagged.
The high level reason for aligning is to support the cross-government work programme to improve responses to family violence, by driving a shift to the optimal state where all perpetrators of family violence receive the right service, at the right time, delivered in the right way to support them in not re-offending. There was also an identified need to be responsive to the feedback providers were giving us about the current state of family violence programmes.
In addition, other more tangible reasons for aligning can be broken down into three categories – benefits for the purchasing agencies, benefits for providers, and benefits for programme participants and their families/whānau.
Benefits for purchasing agencies
For Corrections and Justice, it was identified that resources at both agencies are not best used when they are replicating the same activities (procuring, contracting, monitoring and quality assuring) with the same providers. Operating under different contracts and programme models also limits the ability to share knowledge of what works.
Importantly for Corrections, alignment also provided an opportunity to improve the current programme delivery model, improving completion rates and encouraging group programmes over individual programmes where appropriate.
Improvements in programme flexibility
Corrections made significant changes to the FVP contracts for male perpetrators in 2016. This included the rollout of a new manualised FVP. Providers fed back to Corrections that the FVP was overly prescriptive and did not allow for tailoring to meet client needs. Indicators that the prescriptive programme was not working include low completion rates and low ratio of group to individual programmes (discussed below).
Contracting for new NVPs provided an opportunity to become less prescriptive, with shared service specifications and the Domestic Violence Code governing key elements that must be part of all programmes, and giving the provider flexibility in the content detail and service delivery model.
When compared to previous years, the 2016/17 referral rates decreased and completions increased. However, we wanted to improve completion rates further since we know programmes are more effective if they are completed, and that perpetrators who exit a programme prior to its completion are more likely to re-offend than those who do not attend a programme at all (Morrison & Davenne, 2016; and Vigurs, Schucan-Bird & Quy, 2016).
Discussions with probation officers indicated the increase in shorter community sentences increasingly meant perpetrators would finish their sentence before the end of their programme, and would opt not to complete it when no longer mandated to do so. To encourage completions it was important that we give programme providers the flexibility to tailor programme content so that it adequately engages the participants (e.g. it can be more culturally responsive). Condensing programme content so it can be covered in fewer hours was also likely to be beneficial.
Improved ratio of group to individual programmes
Corrections aimed to have a split of 80% group programmes and 20% individual programmes under the FVP. However, invoicing from providers in 2016/2017 showed approximately 30% of referrals attended a group programme and 70% attended individual programmes.
Amongst other factors, it was identified that the higher use of individual programmes could be due to the manualised FVP structure and content, which didn’t allow for much tailoring to the needs of the individuals constituting a group. The rigidity in not being able to mix Justice and Corrections participants freely also created scheduling problems where new Corrections clients couldn’t be scheduled on a group programme, and with short sentences or little time remaining to be served there was no leeway to wait until the next group programme started.
Both agencies were explicit with providers when procuring the new NVP that a 70:30 group to individual programme ratio was expected, and combined with more flexible programme delivery and freedom to mix participants in any ratio, it is anticipated this target will be easier to achieve.
Improvements in responsivity
There was also an opportunity for Corrections to improve the responsivity of programmes. Māori make up 51% of perpetrators referred by Corrections to a family violence programme, and Pasifika peoples make up 12% of referrals (Morrison & Davenne, 2016). However, the FVP programme was not written under a kaupapa Māori or Pasifika model, and provided limited opportunities for tailoring the programme content or delivery to meet the different needs of these client groups.
Justice use a model of “frameworks”, approving providers to deliver programmes targeted at and responsive to the needs of particular client groups, including: Māori, Pasifika, Middle Eastern, Chinese and Indian, among others. The Code provides detail on the standards these framework programmes must meet.
Corrections alignment with Justice includes adopting their model of approving framework programmes, which means for the first time Corrections clients can take part in a kaupapa Māori family violence programme, a Pasifika family violence programme, and so on. This improved responsivity to the needs of participants should lead to increased engagement, better completion rates and more effective programmes.
Benefits for providers
The alignment of family violence programme contracting between agencies has greatly improved the contracting environment for service providers. The purchasing agencies have been receiving feedback from providers on the status quo approach to procurement, contracting and service delivery. Alignment therefore created an opportunity to address providers’ concerns.
Improvement in fee for service rates
Feedback from providers over recent years included concerns with funding, noting in particular the lower per hour facilitator rate paid by Corrections. Additionally, the short-term nature of contracts offered in the sector (often contracts are of only one or two years duration) means long-term financial stability cannot be predicted, which negatively impacts on the financial planning of the service provider.
The impact of inadequate funding for family violence services has also been raised in independent reviews of the sector, including in The People’s Report (the product of the Glenn Inquiry), which summarised the underfunding in this sector as:
Aligning hourly fee for service rates across the agencies and providing longer a contract term, therefore, will assist in ongoing provider and sector stability.
Decreased administrative burden
The administrative burden for providers of completing weekly reporting, monthly reporting and invoicing for two different programmes is significant. Any ability to reduce the administrative burden is beneficial for providers as it decreases paperwork and allows staff more time to focus on facilitation and client-facing activities.
Greater flexibility in programme delivery
As discussed above, Corrections noticed a decrease in providers when rolling out the revamped FVP for male perpetrators in 2016, with some providers feeding back that the manualised programme was too prescriptive and didn’t suit the way in which they engage clients and lead sessions.
Giving providers more freedom in the content and delivery of their programmes allows them to better meet the needs of their clients, engaging their clients more effectively, and providing greater support for them to complete the programme.
Being able to mix Corrections and Justice clients in any ratio, along with non-mandated participants referred from the social sector, also provides more flexibility in making up a group, effectively giving providers more choice in treatment approach.
Provider feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with many expressing appreciation for the joined up way Corrections and Justice are working together, and reflecting that the changes in programmes and delivery were directly addressing issues raised by them in the past.
Benefits for programme participants and their whānau/families
The overall goal of the Optimal Service Mix, and therefore the goal when procuring the NVP was to ensure all programme participants would receive the right programme, in their location, at the right time. As discussed above, programmes are most likely to be effective for participants when they are able to complete the programme and engage with it fully, and more effective programmes means more whānau/families living without the threat or impact of family violence.
Improvements in programme responsiveness, such as being able to offer group programme times outside of standard business hours, providing a kaupapa Māori or Chinese programme, or delivering one-on-one programmes to those with literacy or learning difficulties, means programmes can engage participants more by being relevant and tailored to their needs. This increases the likelihood of a participant completing the programme and being able to apply the lessons learnt to their life. Not only does this improve the likelihood that they will not re-offend but also improves their quality of life generally, and that of their whānau/family, as they become more resilient and better equipped to deal with life’s challenges without resorting to violence.
Having programmes available in their city or town is important for participants for two reasons. Firstly, having locally available programmes makes it easier for a participant to attend and complete their programme. Secondly, having programmes delivered by local providers increases the responsiveness of the programme, as the facilitator of the programme better understands and is able to meet the needs of perpetrators in their community.
The procurement of NVP providers specifically asked them to describe the needs of their communities, how they assess those needs and how they will meet them. Local providers were also explicitly preferred.
As discussed earlier, a key issue of the previous Corrections programme was the length of time it took to complete (52 hours), and the difficulty in scheduling frequent new start dates for group programmes due to insufficient Corrections referrals to make up a group. This limited the ability of participants to complete a programme prior to their sentence end date (upon which they would no longer be compelled to attend the programme). Some participants do choose to complete a programme after their sentence ends, but the need to begin employment, or job training, or move to a different location can often trump the motivation participants may have to complete when not mandated to do so.
By reducing the length of the programme, and allowing the mixing of Justice, Corrections and other participants in any ratio in group programmes, NVP can be completed faster, and scheduled more frequently. When a programme is available at the right time for a participant, they can complete it within their sentence and realise the programme benefits for themselves and their whānau/family.
The purchasing agencies committed to jointly procuring non-violence programmes for male and female adults (over the age of 17), delivered to either low and low-moderate risk perpetrators referred as part of a Corrections rehabilitation plan or for perpetrators across all risk categories referred from court. At the same time, Justice ran a separate but aligned process to procure safety programmes and services for victims of family violence.
Type of tender
The purchasing agencies agreed an approach to market of a one-step open competitive tender. This procurement approach enabled alignment of Service Specifications, pricing, reporting and evaluation components of the contracts and to allow any new potential providers to enter the market. This approach also fits with each agency’s procurement policies, and the government’s rules of sourcing and procurement principles.
To ready the market for this procurement, the purchasing agencies held roadshows across the country in early December 2017. These one day hui (meetings) let providers know of the upcoming changes in programmes and contracts, and gave them an opportunity to ask questions prior to the tender opening. Questions answered at the roadshows were collated and provided to all interested providers, along with copies of the PowerPoint slides used by the speakers, to provide reference documents for providers when considering how to formulate their tender.
Following the procurement process, from 1 July 2018 the Ministry of Justice has contracted 48 providers for non-violence programmes. Of those 48 providers, Corrections has also contracted 45 providers for delivery of non-violence programmes. All Corrections contracted providers are now also contracted by Justice.
For the Ministry of Justice, the procurement result means a small decrease in the number of providers from previous years. However, they have increased the number of providers able to deliver services to the whole whānau (such as safety programmes and services for the victim and children, along with non-violence programmes for perpetrators), have improved their geographical coverage and have increased the number of kaupapa Māori and Pasifika providers.
For Corrections, the process has resulted in a significant increase in the number of contracted providers, from 27 to 45, meaning better service delivery coverage and the provision of new kaupapa Māori, Pasifika, and other framework programmes.
The new mix of providers includes 16 new providers who have particular strengths in working effectively in Māori, Pasifika and ethnic communities, which holds promise for increased effectiveness of programmes delivered to those groups.
The alignment of Corrections and Justice family violence contracts makes sense, but the reality of aligning two very different contracting styles and programme requirements proved challenging. The success of the contract alignment project and procurement round was achieved with a strong senior leadership commitment to support the work, along with continued respect for the other agency’s ways of working.
Having signed the new aligned contracts, the two agencies will continue to work together as careful contract management will be needed to ensure the potential benefits are realised.
This type of aligned procurement and contracting approach is new for the public sector, and is a promising development in the way government departments are approaching their contracted services. The lessons learnt from the aligned family violence programmes will provide important insights for future cross-agency service alignments.
 The Optimum Service Mix is that which ensures perpetrators can access the right service, at the right time, in a way that best meets their needs; regardless of their referral pathway.
 Members of this work stream constitute representatives from the following agencies: Ministries of Justice and Social Development, Oranga Tamariki, New Zealand Police, Te Puni Kokiri and Department of Corrections.
 Once updated, the Code will be accessible via the Ministry of Justice website, at https://www.justice.govt.nz/about/lawyers-and-service-providers/service-providers/domestic-violence-service-providers/.
 Other factors affecting the ratio of group to individual programmes included the reduction in FVP referrals (24% reduction from previous year) and an increase in women’s referrals, which often do not come through frequently enough make up the required numbers for a group programme.
Morrison, B. and Davenne, J. (2016) ‘Family violence perpetrators: Existing evidence and new directions.’ Practice – The New Zealand Corrections Journal 4(1): 10-14.
Vigurs, C., Schucan-Bird, K., Quy, K. and Gough, D. (2016) ‘The impact of domestic violence perpetrator programmes on victim and criminal justice outcomes: A systematic review of reviews of research evidence.’ What Works: Crime Reduction Systematic Review Series 5: 1-88. Wilson, D. and Webber, M. (2014) The People’s Report: The People’s Inquiry into Addressing Child Abuse and Domestic Violence. New Zealand: The Glenn Inquiry.