“This Will Save Lives” – New Financial Support Announced for Survivors of Domestic Violence

“This Will Save Lives” – New Financial Support Announced for Survivors of Domestic Violence

Co-written by Bethany Kickert

KEY TAKE-OUTS:

  • Two types of grants are announced under the federal and state governments.
  • NSW announced almost $500 million will be allocated to supporting women and children escaping domestic abuse.
  • Simultaneously, the federal government announced the Escaping Violence Payment, a one-off welfare payment of up to $5000 for women fleeing violent relationships.
  • These grants form part of a $1.1 billion women’s safety package in the 2021-22 Women’s Budget.

NSW State Funding

The New South Wales government has announced a $484.3 million package for housing and specialist services, the single largest investment in tackling domestic and family violence in the state’s history. Treasurer Matt Kean has stated the announcement “will save lives” in the relentless battle against domestic abuse.

The funding is expected to deliver and operate an extra 75 refuges over four years, which will be located next to wraparound support services including counselling, legal assistance, education and employment support. They will contain important facilities including meeting rooms, audio-visual equipment for court appearances, communal kitchens and playgrounds. This will almost double the number of refuges for women and children escaping abuse currently operating, bringing the total number in NSW to 161.

Just over $52 million of the funding is allocated to these sustainable, social and affordable housing establishments for victim-survivors. Meanwhile, about $5.2 million will be invested in a trial in two districts to provide dedicated supports for accompanied children and young people experiencing or at risk of homelessness due to domestic and family violence. The initiative is also aimed at helping the sector accommodate the increased demand for services due to COVID-19 lockdowns, particularly in regional and rural NSW.

The Federal Escaping Violence Payment

Commencing on 19 October 2021, the new Escaping Violence Payment offers financial assistance for women who have recently left a violent intimate partner. The payment is comprised of up to $1500 in cash, and the remainder in goods and services or direct payments of bonds, school fees or other support as needed (up to the value of $5,000 total). The payment is also not considered taxable or reportable income and will not impact any other social security payments the victim may be claiming.

Minister for women’s safety, Anne Ruston, has explained that “financial hardship as well as economic abuse… reduces women’s ability to acquire and use money and makes it difficult to leave violent relationships.” She, therefore, has applauded the introduction of the scheme in providing victims with the temporary financial stability to free themselves from their abuser.

The payment is part of a two-year trial and will be independently evaluated to assess the benefit of the payment, including demand, eligibility criteria, needs of specific cohorts, and how it works with related services.

How to Access the Escaping Violence Payment

The payment is available for those over 18 years old who have recently experienced family violence, have a changed living situation and are experiencing financial stress. The violence experienced can be either physical, verbal, sexual or economical, as well as emotional, spiritual or psychological. The violence may also include acts that are threatening, coercive or seek to control or dominate the victim.

To access the payment, the victim must be an Australian citizen or permanent resident in Australia and not have accessed the payment in the last 12 months. Evidence of domestic violence must also be given, including, but not limited to, a referral from a family and domestic violence service provider with a risk assessment and safety plan, an AVO, court order or a police report.

Those who are eligible for the payment may apply through the UnitingCare Network. Should the service be accessed, any information and correspondence will remain completely anonymous, therefore unable to be discovered by a perpetrator.

Statistics – Why we need it

NSW Police respond to more than 140,000 domestic and family violence incidents each year, with one in six women experiencing family violence compared to one in 17 men. Shockingly, one woman is killed every nine days at the hands of a current or former partner.

Minister for Women, Bronnie Taylor, has stated domestic and family violence is also the leading cause of homelessness for women and children, with “almost 40 per cent of the people who accessed specialist homelessness services in New South Wales, across our cities, regional and rural communities” experiencing domestic abuse between 2019 and 2020. This reveals just how high the demand for these critical services is across all regions and cities of New South Wales.

The state initiative in constructing more refugees will ultimately prevent the average of one in two women seeking specialist assistance from being “turned away due to a lack of space”, says Chair of Domestic Violence NSW, Annabelle Daniel.

If you or someone you know is experiencing family violence, the following contacts are available for support:

  • 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) or 1800respect.org.au – the National Sexual Assault, Family and Domestic Violence Counselling Line. This service is free, confidential and open 24 hours a day and supports anyone affected by domestic and family violence and sexual assault.
  • Lifeline (13 11 14) or lifeline.org.au – a crisis support helpline to help put you in contact with a crisis service in your state.
  • Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) or kidshelpline.com.au – a free telephone and online counselling service for young people aged between 5 and 25.

ABOUT LARA MENON:

Lara Menon

Lara joined the Coutts Lawyers & Conveyancers Legal team in August 2018 and is currently working as a Lawyer in our Criminal and Family Law team.

Earlier in 2019, Lara was selected by the NSW Law Society to undertake an internship with the NSW Coroner’s Court, working as a Judge’s Associate for the Deputy State Coroner.


For further information please don’t hesitate to contact:

Lara Menon
Senior Lawyer
lara@couttslegal.com.au
1300 268 887