Review of the Family Violence Risk Assessment & Risk Management Framework (CRAF) Final Report

L-R (top-bottom): Professor JaneMaree Maher, Associate Professor Marie Segrave, Dr Kate Fitz-Gibbon, Professor Jude McCulloch, Dr James Roffee
L-R (top-bottom): Professor JaneMaree Maher, Associate Professor Marie Segrave, Dr Kate Fitz-Gibbon, Professor Jude McCulloch, Dr James Roffee

Monash GFV release the Final Report of the Review of the Family Violence Risk Assessment and Risk Management Framework (CRAF).

The Review makes twenty-seven recommendations aimed at enhancing the use and usability of the CRAF and more effectively embedding it across different professional groups.

View a PDF copy of the Final Report.

View a Word Accessible copy of the Final Report.

The review was undertaken by members of the Monash Gender and Family Violence (GFV) Focus Program.

Executive Summary

The Family Violence Risk Assessment and Risk Management Framework (often referred to as the common risk assessment framework, or the CRAF) has been in use in Victoria since 2007. The CRAF is used by many different professional groups who come into contact with family violence in a range of services: its key objective is to prevent the repetition and escalation of family violence.

The Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence recommended a review of the CRAF to ensure that it reflects best practice internationally. The Commission suggested that the review and redevelopment of the CRAF should aim to enhance processes of risk assessment for children, pay attention to more effective inclusion of all the forms of family violence covered by the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 [Vic] and should incorporate a rating and/or weighting of risk factors to identify the risk of family violence as low, medium or high.

Overall, this Review found that the CRAF has worked effectively to build shared understanding of, and responsibility for, risk assessment of intimate partner violence as the most prevalent form of family violence. While acknowledging its limitations, those who consistently use the framework, testify to its utility in working with women on identifying and understanding their own risk and supporting the professional judgement of support workers in a range of professional contexts.

The current CRAF is grounded in well-established international evidence about known risks to women from male intimate partners. The CRAF is recognised nationally and internationally as a practice leader in risk assessment and it has spread more widely and lasted longer than many other similar tools. Recent and emerging research suggests that attention to new risks associated with smart technologies and the importance of coercive and controlling behaviours in risk assessment should be included in the redevelopment of the CRAF. Risk assessment beyond the context of intimate partner violence is much less developed and this limitation influences the utility and application of the CRAF in assessing diverse forms of family violence.

The Review provides a snapshot of the use, usability, strengths and limitations of the CRAF. Its recognised strengths are linked most strongly to building a shared understanding of risk and family violence across service providers. It was considered that the CRAF addresses risk assessment in cases of male perpetrated intimate partner violence reasonably well. However, it was identified that it is important to clarify the limits of risk in assessing the needs of victims and to develop more standardised understandings about what risk is being assessed, when assessment should happen, and the roles and responsibilities of different occupational groups in relation to risk identification and assessment. The aspiration of the CRAF to provide appropriate referral pathways and information sharing is not yet realised and there is considerable work to be done in developing, embedding and monitoring effective and optimal pathways for victim/survivors.

The recommendations of the RCFV and the changing service landscape will assist in the development of this aspect of the CRAF. Risk management strategies were considered critical but underdeveloped in the current CRAF. The data collection and quality assurance aspects in relation to governance of the CRAF were considered in critical need of development.

The Review found that:

There is strong support for the CRAF, based on its value as a common framework that articulates and highlights the risks posed by intimate partner violence and builds a shared sense of the responsibility to identify and respond to such risk. There was widespread acknowledgement that the CRAF needs redevelopment but that the existing CRAF is a strong foundation and the shared language and common approach should not be lost. This was evidenced in the survey results:

  • 91 per cent of respondents indicated they would use the CRAF regardless of the authorising environment.
  • Where its use was optional, 50 per cent of users strongly supported making it mandatory.

Although there is a strong commitment to the value of the CRAF amongst those who use it, the CRAF is used inconsistently across different professional groups. The data on usability highlights key tensions and challenges, including the divergent needs of different professional groups using the CRAF.

  • The CRAF is used across a wide range of professional groups, but is often contingent on support of management, availability of training and alignment with core organisational objectives.
  • Some participants pointed to the length of CRAF as a limitation while others provided suggestions for further guidance and specificity, which would make it lengthier.
  • Lack of awareness, followed by lack of confidence and time limitations, were the most cited reasons for lack of use.
  • Lack of confidence was generally linked to irregular use and/or lack of training.
  • 80 per cent of respondents to the survey who use the CRAF are trained in its use.

There is a lack of clarity of role and responsibility for the governance of the CRAF, and it has not been embedded consistently in service and practice. Strategies to embed the CRAF must reflect the diverse demands, roles and responsibilities of different professional groups and be supported by a clear structure of governance, implementation and oversight.

  • Lack of oversight and governance of the CRAF was a key issue at three levels:
    • Organisational
    • Interagency collaboration
    • Managing and implementing the framework as a whole.
  • There has been a lack of monitoring of training, use and implementation with the result that some elements of the framework have not been fully or effectively implemented.
  • There is strong support for making the CRAF mandatory through organisational funding and accreditation requirements and for creating an authorising environment.
  • There is strong support for more systematic and targeted data collection on training and use of the CRAF.

Training is a key issue and different professional groups highlighted the need for greater access to training, increased resources to support training and training oversight.

  • In-person training is overwhelmingly the preference of those who use the CRAF.
  • There is currently no central register of those trained in the CRAF.
  • Government funding for training was identified as critical to the extent of uptake of the CRAF.
  • Effective redevelopment will require co-design of tailored training. packages for different professional groups to address the gaps in training.
  • Workers were often signed up to the training levels available, rather than the level that was appropriate to their role.
  • There was strong support for monitoring of training and for developing a framework of accreditation.

The extent to which the CRAF is aligned and embedded within relevant organisations varies. There is an opportunity to more fully integrate the CRAF within the management of organisations and with policy delivery.

  • Only 45 per cent of respondents to the survey experience any management oversight of the CRAF.
  • Where use of the CRAF was strongest it was embedded within the policy and procedures of organisations.

Victim/survivors indicated a lack of timely support and positive interventions to interrupt or stop the violence they were experiencing.

  • Women described multiple interactions with health and other universal services where they were unable to access help or support despite having experienced physical violence. There was a strong sense that more timely and target support would have enabled better outcomes to be achieved.
  • A lack of referral and risk management practice was highlighted, particularly in regional areas.
  • Intimate partner homicides are recognised as the most preventable types of homicide because a history of family violence is a known risk factor. However, there is also strong evidence that victims more often than not are unknown to police prior to a fatality. This pattern was born out by the victim/survivors in the Review, who indicated they experienced an extended period of abuse before being able to access help and support. This finding emphasises the importance of risk identification and assessment by first respondents or generalist service providers.

The Review considered the RCFV’s key recommendations in relation to the CRAF. These recommendations include the need for a weighted actuarial tool to assess levels of risk, the need for children specific risk factors, and the need for the CRAF to be more inclusive of diverse forms of family violence and diverse communities. In relation to these recommendations the Review found:

  • There is cautious support for a weighted actuarial tool. It was widely recognised that risk assessment is complex and that an actuarial tool with weightings cannot alone resolve this complexity.
  • There is overwhelming support for improving risk assessment practices around children and recognition that not enough is currently being done to assess and manage child-specific risk. Despite the support for better children’s risk assessment, there were concerns about how to develop specific risk factors for children and overcome identified barriers to inter-agency collaboration.
  • There is strong support for greater inclusivity in a redeveloped CRAF. Ensuring a more inclusive CRAF while continuing to adhere to a shared framework that recognises intimate partner violence as the main form of family violence is a key challenge. Another key challenge to achieving greater inclusivity is the paucity of evidence-based risk factors for family violence other than heterosexual intimate partner violence.

The Review makes twenty-seven recommendations aimed at enhancing the use and usability of the CRAF and more effectively embedding it across different professional groups.