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2.3.5 Safety planning for emotional abuse - FDV

Last Modified: 21-Jun-2022 Review Date: 01-Jul-2019


To support child protection workers to undertake safety planning in cases of emotional abuse – family and domestic violence (FDV).

This entry should be read in conjunction with Chapter 2.2 Signs of Safety - child protection practice framework

Note: CEO refer to the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Communities (the Department). 

  • Where child safety investigation (CSI) about emotional abuse FDV has determined likely future danger for the child, you must undertake safety planning.

  • Safety planning must work towards reducing or managing the risks posed by the perpetrator and increasing the safety, supports and wellbeing of the child and adult victim.

  • You must work in partnership with the adult victim and safety network to develop and action safety goals and safety plans. You must not hold the adult victim responsible for stopping or changing the person using violence.

  • As risk is dynamic, and perpetrators are known to escalate their use of violence over time, the safety plan must be reviewed regularly particularly when new risk information is obtained and/or at times when risk is likely to escalate.

  • You must consider using the powers granted under the Restraining Orders Act 1987 to apply, for a Family Violence Restraining Order (FVRO) on behalf of the child against the perpetrator if:

    • the violence is likely to escalate and the child is at risk of further abuse
    • a FVRO is considered to be a safe and suitable tool to support safety planning, and/or
    • it would decrease risk to the adult victim if the Department was the applicant for the VRO. 
Process Maps

Safety planning and safety networks for emotional abuse - family and domestic violence

Professional safety network is responsible for addressing immediate safety and practical needs (housing, income, security, duress alarms etc.) and for managing and monitoring the risk posed by the perpetrator.

Community safety network is responsible for providing ongoing support and assistance to the adult victim and child; risk monitoring; and reporting further concerns.

Personal safety plan includes strategies to help keep the victim safe at home, work, school or in the community. This can be developed by the child protection worker or another support service.

Note: This diagram illustrates a ‘community’ and ‘professional’ safety network. This is not intended to imply that there are two separate safety networks but rather that community members and professionals may have different roles in the safety plan.

Information and Instructions

  • What needs to happen – developing safety goals
  • Safety planning
  • Engaging the perpetrator in safety planning
  • Victim Notification Register
  • Financial assistance - family violence assistance to leave
  • Residential tenancy - options for leaving a tenancy
  • Immigration status
  • Protection orders and stability and connection planning
  • Recording family and domestic violence in Assist
  • What needs to happen – developing safety goals

    Family and the Department's Goals

    The purpose of developing family and Department goals is to clearly identify what the Department and the family believe needs to happen to be confident that the child will be safe in the family home.  Our goals must link directly to the danger statement and describe the specific behaviours that need to be seen for the us to be confident that the child and adult victim will be safe.

    When developing our safety goals, you must not:

    • place responsibility for stopping the violence on the adult victim or child
    • send the message that violence is ok as long as the children don't witness it
    • include behaviours or actions in safety goals that may make the adult victim or child unsafe, or
    • focus only on the symptoms and impacts of FDV, for example, on mental health issues, parenting, behavioural issues etc., without also addressing the risks associated with the perpetrator's behaviour (the source of harm).

    Examples of danger statements and safety goals are available in Emotional Abuse – Family and Domestic Violence Assessment Toolkit (in related resources).


    Safety planning

    When responding to emotional abuse – FDV, there are three important components to a safety plan:

    1. A personal safety plan for the adult victim.

    2. Safety network involving community members and professionals.

    3. A safety plan with the perpetrator (if possible and appropriate).

    Developing a personal safety plan

    A personal safety plan is a series of strategies and actions developed in consultation with the adult victim and child to support or work towards their safety.

    Typically the focus of a personal safety plan is on planning responses to an immediate threat or crisis and identifying ways that the adult victim and child can increase their safety in their home, work and social environments.

    You must assist the adult victim to develop a personal safety plan or refer the adult victim and child to a FDV service to undertake this activity. 

    Contact the Women's Domestic Violence Helpline in areas where domestic violence services are not locally available.
    The personal safety plan should be revisited on a regular basis and adapted as required. A personal safety plan should be undertaken for the adult victim and child in situations where they are continuing to reside with the perpetrator or where they have separated.

    At a minimum, a personal safety plan should include the following:

    • Contact details for a FDV support service.

    • Other emergency contact numbers including Western Australia Police and Crisis Care.

    • Strategies to improve security at the victim's home.

    • Identification of a safe place to go if in danger and how the child and adult victim will get there.

    • Relatives, friends or neighbours who can assist in an emergency and how they will contact them.

    • Access to money and important documents (e.g., identification or bank cards) in a crisis.

    • Talking about safe use of social media or other communication technologies.

    For a personal safety plan template and guidance on where and how this plan should be recorded, see the Emotional Abuse – Family and Domestic Violence Safety Planning Toolkit (in related resources). 

    Safety network (community)

    You must work actively with the adult victim to identify family, friends or other acquaintances who could be invited to be part of the safety network. This can be as few (one person) or as many people as is suited to the adult victim, child and case circumstances. The role of community members in the safety network can include, but is not limited to:

    • providing practical support such as child care, school drop off and pick up etc. Practical supports can be particularly important in cases where there has been a recent separation and/or the victim is managing a range of competing demands and activities to keep herself and her children safe

    • supporting access to appointments, or providing a conduit to the Department providing a safe place to stay if there has been threatened, or actual violence

    • proactive engagement with the adult victim and/or child on a regular basis to check on their safety and wellbeing, and

    • reporting acts of violence, threats of violence, or other concerns to police and the Department.

    Safety network (professionals)

    You must work closely with professionals from partner agencies to reduce or manage the risk posed by the perpetrator. The services or professionals engaged should be determined in consultation with the adult victim. The role of professionals in a safety network is to address immediate safety and practical needs that require service intervention (such as housing or income) and to focus on activities that reduce, manage and monitor the risks posed by the perpetrator. You must take the lead role in coordinating service activities when multiple professionals are involved.

    Developing the safety plan

    You can arrange combined or separate meetings of community safety network members and professional safety network members. This may depend on location, availability, client and network transience etc. In either case, safety planning meetings should involve:

    • information exchange to enable a common understanding about the risk
    • clear communication of the danger statement and safety goal
    • using a questioning approach to identify actions or strategies to include in the safety plan
    • identifying who is responsible for each action and when it will be completed by (if required)
    • identifying strategies for risk monitoring, and
    • agreeing a timeframe for a review of the safety plan.

    For further information refer to Emotional Abuse – Family and Domestic Violence Safety Planning Toolkit (in related resources).  This includes questions and prompts to support safety planning and a list of the roles and responsibilities of partner agencies in responding to FDV.


    Engaging the perpetrator in safety planning

    Where possible, you should engage the perpetrator of violence in the safety planning process.

    The perpetrator must not:

    • be a part of the adult victim and child's safety network, and
    • receive a copy of the adult victim's personal safety plan.

    You must consider carefully whether it is suitable for the perpetrator to know the details about the safety plan prepared with the safety network.

    The decision about whether to share this information with the perpetrator should be made in consultation with the adult victim.

    Safety planning with the perpetrator is a separate (but related) process that focuses on what he can do to meet the safety goals and create safety for his child. Examples of actions or behaviours that could be included in the safety plan of a perpetrator of violence are provided below. Actions should be tailored to the person and the circumstances of their relationship with the adult victim (e.g., in a relationship or separated) and should focus on ways that the perpetrator can demonstrate improved safety through a reduction in violence and abuse. Examples include:

    • not drinking or taking drugs at home, or coming home substance affected (if that is where the adult victim and child are)
    • leaving the address or walking away if/when an argument starts or the perpetrator feels like he is getting angry or frustrated
    • calling MensLine Australia 24/7 support domestic violence helpline (refer to the Department's website for more information)  
    • complying with police orders, family violence restraining orders (FVROs) and bail conditions
    • agreement that he will not prevent the victim from leaving with the children if she is feeling unsafe, and
    • nominating one or more people who can help keep him on track with any actions agreed to in the safety plan and with help (and monitoring) to attend appointments for drug and alcohol or mental health, behaviour change programs.

    It is important not to send the message to the perpetrator that violence is acceptable if the children are not present. Any violence perpetrated against a child's mother is harmful to the child regardless of whether the child witnesses the incident.

    If the perpetrator can choose not to be violent in front of the children, he can choose to not be violent at all.

    To assist you to engage perpetrators of FDV in the safety planning process, a document has been developed which includes prompts and questions that can be asked, see the Emotional Abuse – Family and Domestic Violence Safety Planning Toolkit (in related resources).


    Victim Notification Register

    In cases where a perpetrator of FDV is incarcerated, you can register the victim's name on the Victim Notification Register. When registered, the Department of Justice will provide us with updates related to risk, including the perpetrator's release from prison. For further information and instructions about how to register on the Victim Notification Register, refer to the following related resources:


    Financial assistance - family violence assistance to leave

    Financial assistance can be provided through the Family Crisis Program to assist the child and adult victim to escape the perpetrator. Assistance can include:

    • transport for urgent medical treatment, to a refuge or other safe place, to a police station for assistance or to obtain a family violence restraining order
    • accommodation costs necessary for immediate safety where no refuge accommodation is available, and/or
    • meals/other expenses when accommodation is required.

    For further information including how to apply, expenditure amounts and recording in Assist refer to Financial Assistance – Family Violence Assistance to Leave (in related resources).


    Residential tenancy - options for leaving a tenancy

    ​The family violence provisions in the Residential Tenancies Act 1987 (RT Act) provides options for staff in their efforts to increase safety for adult and child victims experiencing FDV, as well as for holding perpetrators of FDV accountable for their abusive behaviours.

    Many families come to the attention of child protection when experiencing FDV. In some instances the presenting issue will be homelessness or financial hardship, however the underlying cause is often FDV.  Changes in the RT Act now assist victims avoid the financial hardship and homelessness associated with leaving a residential tenancy.

    All staff must be aware of these changes and when working with a victim and their family, and provide appropriate advice regarding options to ensure their safety when managing their residential tenancy arrangements.

    Options include:

    • Enabling tenants and their dependents who are at risk of, or experiencing FDV to terminate their interest in a tenancy directly with a landlord or property manager by providing both a Notice of Termination, and any of the following prescribed forms of evidence: 
      • a Family Violence Restraining Order (FVRO), 
      • a Family Court Injunction, or 
      • Family Violence Report - Evidence Form signed by a professional such as a doctor, child protection or social worker (s.71AB of the RT Act).  For further information refer to Safe Tenancy WA.  

    • Provisions for a tenant to remove a perpetrator from a tenancy agreement and stay in the rental home, through an application to the Magistrates Court (s.71AE of the RT Act).  If the person making the application is not listed as a tenant, they may also apply to the Court to add themselves as a tenant under s.59C of the RT Act. 

    • Ways to deal with disputes around property damage, unpaid rent and bond disbursement to avoid financial burden when leaving a tenancy, by applying to the Magistrates Court under s.17B of the RT Act.  If a Court Order is not made, all tenants will be jointly liable for any damages and debt.

    • Allowing locks to be changed, and/or the installation of additional security features such as an alarm system and security lights, without a landlord's permission to further protect the victim (sections 45(2) and 47(4)(5) fo the RT Act. 

    • Tenants who find themselves on a tenancy database due to FDV can have their name removed from that blacklist.

    For more information regarding provisions for family violence in the RT Act, and the role of child protection, see the practice guidance Safe Tenancy, options for victims of family and domestic violence in related resources.


    Immigration status

    Where the immigration status of the adult victim is unknown or at risk due to FDV, provide a referral for legal advice or to the Department of Home Affairs.

    For further information refer to Family and Domestic Violence Referral Guide and Family violence and Your Visa (in related resources).


    Protection orders and stability and connection planning

    In situations where it has been determined that a child is in need of protection, you must consider whether the Department pursuing a family violence restraining order on behalf of the child will mitigate enough of the risk to enable the child to stay in the care of the adult victim, with a safety plan in place.

    If it is decided that this is not a suitable, or safe enough, course of action and a protection order is sought, you must:

    • consider and plan for how the relationship between the child and the adult victim will be maintained through regular contact, and
    • continue safety planning with the adult victim and her safety network (community and professional) to enable work towards reunification to commence as soon as possible.

    Contact arrangements

    In cases of emotional abuse – FDV where the severity of a perpetrator's use of violence has led to a child being removed, consider whether contact with the perpetrator is safe or appropriate. If the perpetrator of violence is not willing to work with the Department, or has demonstrated no interest or intent to change his behaviour, consider whether it is in the child's best interests to have contact, and if so, what is the safest and most appropriate method of contact.

    In circumstances where arrangements for supervised contact between a child and a perpetrator are being made, consider the following:

    • The supervisor's relationship with the perpetrator.
    • Their level of fear of the perpetrator.
    • Ability and willingness to take the appropriate actions if they are worried about the child's safety. 
    • Likelihood of collusion with the perpetrator.

    Recording family and domestic violence in Assist

    For further information, refer to Family and Domestic Violence Recording Guidelines and the Familyand Domestic Violence Screening Guide (in related resources).