Evaluation of the Pre-court Support for Adolescents using violence in the home (AVITH) Pilot
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.
The CIJ was thrilled to kick off its partnership and co-location with Youthlaw with a two-year collaborative project funded by the Victorian Legal Services Board. Building on the findings of the PIPA Project, this project will enable us to explore and test early family violence legal and non-legal support options for young people who use or experience violence. The project is based on the premise that giving young people earlier specialised support from a lawyer and youth worker will provide a more positive and participatory experience of court, as well as improving safety and personal outcomes. Youthlaw will deliver the project through an additional lawyer and social worker to provide earlier, multidisciplinary pre-court legal support, while he CIJ will conduct the research and evaluation component of the project. This will explore young people’s experiences and promote the need for them to feel heard and contribute to project design solutions.
Project design and referral pathways to early, pre-court supports are being developed in close and collaborative consultation with critical stakeholders, including the Melbourne Registry of the Children’s Court of Victoria, Victoria Police, Victoria Legal Aid and Family Safety Victoria, with project delivery and research to run from early 2021 to mid 2022.
This project has now wrapped up.
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.
Our evaluation 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.
You can read the evaluation report below.