New report highlights benefits of early legal and social support for young people using violence in the home
The Report highlights that early, specialist legal and non-legal support and pre-court negotiations, often results in timely and effective outcomes for young people, reduces harmful contact with the justice system and improved safety for their families.
Youthlaw, Victoria’s youth legal centre, has launched the Centre for Innovative Justice, Final Evaluation of the Pre-court Support for Adolescents using violence in the home (AVITH) Pilot.
This two-year collaborative project was funded by the Victorian Legal Services Board & Commissioner, building on the findings of the PIPA Project, to develop and evaluate a pilot of an integrated and pre-court response to young people using violence in the home, who are listed as the respondents on an intervention order.
After some delays largely due to COVID-19 impacts, the pilot ran from January 2021 to June 2022 across western metropolitan Melbourne.
The pilot tested the idea that young people would experience better outcomes if they can engage earlier, before their intervention order court hearing, with specialised legal & social work support, in relation to their use & experience of family violence. Early supports includes risk and needs assessments, providing legal information and advice, supporting young people’s engagement with services, and linking them to and putting in place broad supports to address the young person’s use of violence.
The Report found that the establishment of early referral relationships and pathways with a range of frontline services and agencies, meant that all young people received legal advice and other support prior to the day of court. It improved young people’s engagement and understanding of the legal process
Youthlaw pre-court advocacy and negotiation with Victoria Police and the Court resulted in the young people’s cases resolving sooner and mostly without the imposition of a court order. The evaluation found that the vast majority of young people supported through the pilot exited without any intervention order in place, and had alternative arrangements for safety, help and support in place. The report also found the majority of associated criminal matters were resolved through police cautions or court diversion.
The capacity of the integrated practice team to link young people with relevant supports not only mitigates the risk of violence within the family, but also create a space for young people to disclose their own experiences of violence. The report found that over two thirds of young people had experienced family violence, or been exposed to family violence in the home.
CIJ made 16 recommendations to build and improve the program. Central to the recommendations is Youthlaw continuing to work to strengthen current referral pathways, facilitate more eligible and suitable referrals, and exploring opportunities to establish new referral pathways.