The partnership between FCVic and Social Security Rights Victoria (SSRV), the Integrated Services Project (ISP) aims to improve client outcomes through financial counsellors and social security lawyers working together more effectively. SSRV has two other specialist projects: The Family Violence Project and Disability Support Pension Project. This month, we’d like to tell you about the Family Violence Project.
The Family Violence Project explores family violence and social security issues. Community Lawyer, Anna Morrow, leads the work in this area which includes providing legal advice and casework services to people affected by family violence and workers assisting them, researching the intersection of family violence and social security law, exploring opportunities to engage with family violence specialist services, providing community legal education/professional development, and developing further resources for workers assisting vulnerable clients.
Case Study from the intersection of Social Security issues and Family Violence
Sasha* a lawyer at a Community Legal Centre contacted the project worker in relation to her client, Jill*, who had a $27 000 Centrelink debt. Sasha had been assisting Jill in relation to Family Violence Intervention Order proceedings as well as other legal matters related to the family violence. Sasha was looking to refer Jill to SSRV for assistance with the Centrelink debt.
The SSRV lawyer accepted the referral and took the matter on for representation. Jill had moved house multiple times and did not know where all her relevant paperwork was. At Jill’s request, the project worker liased with Sasha to obtain copies of evidence issued in her other legal matters. The CLC lawyer also provided a letter in relation to the assistance they were providing Jill to corroborate Jill’s evidence. While the project lawyer was in the process of preparing Jill’s appeal for debt waiver, Sasha contacted them regarding another issue that Jill had raised in relation to her child support. The project lawyer assisted Jill with this as well.
The collaborative relationship between SSRV and other community organisations is crucial to achieving the best outcomes for clients as it ensures access to crucial evidence and information and prevents other legal issues from falling through the cracks.
Intersection between family violence and social security
Family violence intersects with social security matters directly, where the social security system is used as a tool to perpetrate family violence, and indirectly, where social security issues arise out of the presence of family violence.
Social Security matters where family violence intersects include:
- Centrelink debts due to the ex-partner making false reports to Centrelink about the victim being in a relationship or having the care of their child;
- Family violence perpetrator threatens to ‘dob’ the victim into Centrelink. This impacts the victim’s capacity to leave the violent relationship;
- Where a family violence perpetrator withholds information about their income and this results in the victim receiving a debt;
- Where someone is unable to comply with their obligations to Centrelink due to trauma from family violence or having to flee a family violence situation;
- Residency or visa issues resulting in an inability to access income support and flee a family violence situation;
- The rate of payment is insufficient to secure safe accommodation;
- The person has difficulty establishing their entitlement due to not having access to their identity documents, or not meeting strict eligibility criteria.
Collaboration with Financial Counsellors
Social Security matters where family violence is a direct factor generally enter SSRV via a community support worker. Financial counsellors in particular, play a crucial role in the safety and wellbeing of someone who is experiencing family violence. Financial issues impact a person’s ability to flee a violent relationship and often it is financial counsellors who are the first to identify these issues and provide support or link the client to appropriate legal services.
The Family Violence Project aims to work closely with financial counsellors and other community workers to strengthen referral pathways and work collaboratively from the advice stage to the legal representation stage, so that victims of family violence receive wrap-around and trauma informed support.
Get in touch
Please contact Anna Morrow ([email protected]) at SSRV to discuss the Family Violence Project and related services and activities. We are keen to hear from financial counsellors about family violence issues impacting upon your clients and their social security entitlements and to discuss potential collaboration opportunities.
Worker Help Line – 0429 450 346* or 03 9481 0655
Financial counsellors are invited to call the SSRV Worker Help Line, Monday to Thursday, 9.00am- 5.00pm, for information and support in assisting clients with Centrelink matters and to make referrals to SSRV.
General Advice Line – 0419 793 652* or 03 9481 0355
Individuals can be referred the SSRV General Advice Line, which is operating between 9.30am -12.30pm, Monday to Thursday.
These are the primary pathways for intake and assessment for further legal casework and representation services.
*Direct mobile phone numbers to telephone advice services while SSRV delivers services remotely during the COVID-19 response period. Calls to the usual numbers will be diverted to these mobile numbers.