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Building a sustainable future for family violence services

New Zealand has some of the highest levels of family violence in the world, which has a devastating impact on people and communities across the country.

Providers of family violence services have been working in difficult circumstances for many years to help people who are affected by family violence.

Over the last few years the sector has increasingly been working together to reduce the prevalence and impact of family violence in New Zealand.

As the Ministry of Social Development is a major funder of family violence services, we are keen to build on this momentum. We would like to see a future where providers are sustainably funded and services are whānau-centred, outcomes-focused and integrated.

To move towards this future, in 2018 we worked with providers and communities on a new approach to strengthen the funding and delivery of family violence services for whānau and families.

The approach is based on the themes we heard from providers in the sector about what needs to change in the current system to allow services to go beyond crisis management to support long term recovery, helping enable communities everywhere in New Zealand to eliminate family violence for the next generation.

MSD is a committed member of the wider cross-government joint venture to develop new ways of working across government, and with iwi and communities, to reduce family violence and sexual violence through an integrated response. This new funding approach is part of, and will remain responsive to, the work of the joint venture.

The work to develop and implement the approach is also supported by additional funding for MSD-funded family violence services announced in Budget 2018 and Budget 2020.

How we gathered key themes for the 2018 approach

To develop the key themes underpinning the 2018 approach, we spent a lot of time visiting and listening to providers and other key stakeholders around the country to learn and understand the current service delivery and the gaps.

People were very gracious with their time and we gained many valuable insights. We have summarised the key themes from the discussions.

To make sure all providers had an opportunity to have a say, we also provided a confidential, anonymous survey to ensure all providers could participate.

2021 insights about services for people experiencing violence

MSD is continuing work to make sure people experiencing violence and their families and/or whanau have access to the right services, at the right time and delivered in the right way.

To better understand the services available, in July 2021 we asked all MSD-funded providers delivering ‘general responses to family violence services’ to answer a survey. These providers deliver a broad range of services for people experiencing violence, including counselling, social work, support work, family/whānau-centred services and Māori, Pacific and Ethnic support services.

We had almost 100 responses to this survey. We are pleased with the high response rate and thank everyone who participated.

We have learnt a lot from survey responses. What we learned helps set a strong direction for where MSD can work to better support people experiencing violence and their families/whānau. We look forward to using these insights to help us create a future where services are designed to have the greatest possible positive impact for people experiencing family violence.

If you would like to know more about the survey, please email us at

Supporting people who use family violence — a stronger system

MSD funds community providers across Aotearoa New Zealand to support people who want to address their violent behaviour and live violence-free lives. The people accessing this support may self-refer to providers or be informally referred by other agencies.

Community providers who deliver this support help to prevent the occurrence or re-occurrence of family violence and are a vital component of the family violence system.

During our 2018 engagement with all family violence service providers, we heard the most significant gap in MSD-funded family violence support is for people who use family violence. Since then we have developed a three-year work programme to strengthen this support.

Three-year work programme — supporting people who use family violence

MSD’s three-year work programme to support people who use family violence will continue our progress towards improving the viability, capacity and capability of current providers, identifying priority gaps in MSD-funded responses and strengthening our focus on outcomes and continuous improvement. Engagement and collaboration with the sector, particularly improving the way we work with Māori, is a foundational aspect of this mahi (work).

The programme focuses on implementing the priorities for strengthening and stabilising all of MSD’s family violence services, as set out in the Family Violence Funding Approach.

Strengthening support for people who use family violence describes the strategic context in which the Ministry and MSD-funded community providers are working to support people who use violence. It also outlines our three-year work programme to strengthen community responses and our ongoing commitment to working closely with our sector colleagues.

Te Huringa ō Te Ao – Supporting Men’s Behaviour Change

Te Huringa ō Te Ao is an initiative that supports sustainable behaviour change for men to restore whānau wellbeing. Te Huringa ō Te Ao aims to strengthen and expand responses for men who use violence by supporting locally led responses, reflective of the needs and aspirations of whānau.

This initiative will increase access to services for men using violence across Aotearoa, by increasing geographical coverage, expanding the range of responses available, investing in the specialist family violence workforce, and increasing support for Māori, Pacific and ethnically diverse communities.

Elder Abuse in Aotearoa

As part of our drive to build a sustainable future for family violence services, and as part of our Family Violence Funding Approach, MSD funds providers to deliver Elder Abuse and Response Services (EARS) that address the immediate needs of older people experiencing or at risk of experiencing abuse and neglect.

Elder abuse services were added to the family violence work programme in late 2018.

New Whānau Resilience service

As part of the development of our Family Violence Funding Approach, providers told us that most of MSD’s funding to family violence service providers ends up being directed to crisis support, because of the overwhelming demand for these services. This does not enable service providers to work with families and whānau to break the intergenerational cycle of violence.

To address this need, we have invested $15.4 million received in Budget 2018 in ‘Whānau Resilience services’ that will focus on providing long-term healing and recovery services to individuals, families, whānau and communities affected by family violence.