COVID-19 practice guidelines

Updated Practice Guidance from No to Violence

Men’s Behaviour Change Programs and delivering perpetrator interventions

24-3-2020 No to Violence recommends that you cease all face-to-face group work. If your service chooses not to do so at this time, please see guidance below.

The following state government agencies have endorsed the ceasing of face-to-face MBCP delivery and are actively working with No to Violence and our member organisations to provide alternative modes of intervention:

  • Family Safety Victoria
  • Corrections Victoria
  • Department of Justice and Community Safety

For Current Service Users:

If your MBCP group program is coming to an end (closed groups, and you have 2-4 sessions remaining), and your service has decided to continue to offer face to face group work:

  • Increase the frequency of your group. This means running sessions on alternate days of the week, or each day of the week to completion.
  • It is not recommended to extend the length of the group session, i.e. from 2 hours to 4 hours. This is not useful to staff nor to clients.
  • Provide hand sanitiser and adhere to updated social / physical distancing advice. Note that this is becoming more and more challenging to adhere to each day as further restrictions are introduced.
  • During this period, it is critical to contact all affected family members to discuss the impending changes to lifestyle and risks that will be presented for each family. At this time your service can proactively work with victim/survivors and victim/survivor agencies, child protection, police, and other services linked with families to create a collaborative risk management plan.
  • Following the completion of group sessions, it is recommended to continue to provide telephone or video conference-based support to the men accessing your service as well as family members, for at least the period that group would have normally run, then provide exit, safety and/or accountability planning in line with your state or territory’s minimum standards for practice. This could include ongoing contact with the family, for up to a period of a further four further weeks.
  • If a man feels unwell, he is to be advised not to attend the group and that your service will arrange for alternative arrangements to support his “completion” of the group program. You may choose to use 1:1 make-up sessions when the client is well, which may be at a time that face to face contact has ceased. At this time, use telephone or video conference facilities.

If your MBCP group program is a rolling group, and your service has decided to offer face-to-face group work:

  • You should cease entering men into your group now.
  • For those that are almost completed, follow the above.
  • For those who are not yet completed, see below.

If your MBCP group has commenced (at any stage) and you have already ceased face-to-face group work:

  • Ongoing support must be provided to both the men in group and their family members. It is recommended that group work is adjourned, meaning a ‘pause’ in men’s attendance.
    • At this point in time, the focus must be on safety and maintaining engagement with the whole family in order to monitor and assess risk and action a risk management strategy.
    • During times of extreme distress and anxiety in uncertainty, focusing on “change work” may be inappropriate and unsafe.
  • The team (facilitators, case managers, family safety contact workers, children’s workers and supervisors) must re-assess each man’s and family’s situation, including presenting risks and needs, current and potential escalation of violence, level of motivation and willingness to engage with your service. This assessment may be done through your interaction with the man, with the family members, with victim/survivor services and other agencies involved.
  • During this period, it is critical to contact all affected family members to discuss the impending changes to lifestyle and risks that will be presented for each family. At this time your service can proactively work with victim/survivors and victim/survivor agencies, child protection, police, and other services linked with families to create a collaborative risk management plan.
  • Based on your team’s assessment and contact with families, develop a proactive and ongoing support arrangement to continue your work over this period.
  • A proactive and ongoing support arrangement may include:
    • Contracting to weekly phone calls or telephone sessions with the man
    • Providing regular phone-based support to family members, or collaborating with other services involved to support them
    • Using case management targets / funding to increase intervention / interaction with the man
    • Continuing to work on “change work” with the man, taking into consideration increased risks of home isolation or increased periods within the family home, through individual telephone counselling or video conferencing sessions.
    • If families are in home isolation together, it is not recommended to do “change work” as the conditions of the home environment may not be safe or suitable to perform this.
    • If “change work” is continuing, and the man lives separately from the partner, and your service has assessed that the man using violence has engaged in MBCP-like topics over the course of a number of sessions (to be determined by the agency), a recommendation may be made that he has “completed” the MBCP. The practitioner can make a recommendation to the team, and seek advice from the family safety contact worker. If all are satisfied, the man may be deemed “MBCP completed”.
    • Given the extreme circumstances we are currently in, NTV is happy to support agencies in these situations and can provide a letter template outlining the ‘equivalency’ group completion.

For New Service Users:

If men or their family members contact your service for the purpose of engaging the person using family violence:

  • You should continue to offer intake and assessment support as normal. Where this was face to face, this may be done using telephone or video conferencing facilities.
  • You must advise all new service users of the changing situation and limitations of services (i.e. not face to face), however that this does not mean that support is not available.
  • Assessment should always be for the purpose of establishing:
    • Risk indicators and levels
    • Needs of the man
    • The most appropriate treatment or interventions required to reduce risk, enhance safety, and encourage change
    • A point of contact with those most affected by the man’s use of violence
  • As group work is currently being adjourned, case management and other individual-based work should be offered for supporting individual men at this time. Family safety contact work is offered as per MBCP standards.
  • If a man is assessed as high risk, consider options for safely engaging with the person, particularly if they are in home isolation. Speak with and coordinate your efforts with victim/survivor services and other agencies that may be involved. Case management should be provided as a minimum and can take many forms, from intensive contact (at least weekly phone calls and background case coordination) to observation and monitoring via other external sources or brief contacts (through information sharing with victim/survivor services, police, correctional services and other social service providers). Maintaining engagement of the family with the system is critical at this time.
  • If a man is assessed to require intervention through a group-based program, provide weekly check-ins with the man and his family members. It may be appropriate to commence motivation and psychoeducation work at this time. Alternative ways of delivering group work are being considered.

Supporting staff and teams

NTV will regularly update practice guidance and resources to support organisations in service continuity and workforce retention and wellbeing. The following is a starting place of guidance only, and will be updated over time.

  • Where possible, video conferencing with clients is recommended to be occurring from the work premises, rather than staff homes. This is to ensure boundaries, wellbeing and feelings of safety are maintained for staff.
  • Where staff are able to work from home, ensure ‘Work from Home’ policies are met, and staff have what they need to safely and confidentially undertake client engagement.
    • When using video conferencing facilities, this may include using alternative backgrounds (each platform will have different instructions) to protect the privacy of the staff’s home from clients.
  • It is not advised to force staff to provide services that they believe is unsafe practice. Please speak with your local contract manager or NTV about safe practices.
  • Be prepared to provide additional support for staff via debriefing and supervision. We are all working in a rapidly changing environment with many staff either working from home or making arrangements to do so. Organisational support for individual staff’s wellbeing while working offsite is essential, and at these times must be prioritised in order to successfully support our client groups during times of crisis.

Below we have listed some key resources for people who work in face-to-face counselling:

  • Safe and Together – offers practical tips to assist you in delivery.