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Govt announces new Better Public Services measure on family violence

March 17, 2016 at 3:24 PM

Govt announces new Better Public Services measure on family violence

*From the New ZEaland Family Violence Clearinghouse*

Justice Minister Amy Adams has announced a new Better Public Services (BPS) measure focused on family violence.

Until now, family violence offending has come under the target of reducing violent crime. Ms Adams said, "The BPS violent crime measure combine both family violence and other types of violence which clouds progress and conflates two different crime problems, each of which requires a different response. The creation of two new supporting measures of violent crime will provide better insight about the violent crime rate."

The two new measures are:

  • Violent offences in private dwellings (used as a proxy for family violence); and
  • Violent offences in public places.

Ms Adams said, "While the targeted 20 per cent reduction in all violent crime by June 2017 is a deliberately ambitious goal for the justice sector, these new results shows violence in public places is down 19 per cent since June 2011. The pattern of violent crime committed in dwellings shows a smaller reduction and is down 3 per cent over the same period. While it’s not clear why family violence is reducing more slowly than violence in public places, the likely cause is increased public awareness and reporting, which we actively encourage. This new way of representing family violence in our BPS results will help us gain a better understanding of the levels of violence within the home. This in turn can help target services where they are needed."

Ms Adams released the Justice Sector BPS results for the quarter ending September 2015. These show reductions in the rates of total recorded crime (down 17%), youth crime (down 39%), re-offending (down 7.7%) and violent crime (down 10%) since 2011.

Ms Adams said "These supporting measures are not about shifting the goalposts, but helping paint a more complete picture of progress so we can target funding and services to areas of greatest need."

Women's Refuge Chief Executive Dr Ang Jury commented, "What is important to note, however, is that these measures include only reported crime of domestic and family violence, crime that comes to the attention of the Police; not all incidents reach Police, let alone the court system. NZ Police routinely estimate that less than 20% of family violence is reported. With this in mind, are the Justice BPS measures a true record of family violence? NGO's like Women's Refuge routinely work with victims of unreported crime as well as those who do report."

The government also released updated BPS results for all 10 targets. These include a target of reducing the number of physical assaults on children, measured by Child, Youth and Family substantiated findings of physical abuse.

The Salvation Army's recent State of Nation report was critical of the BPS targets, saying government agencies appear to be using the targets and data in a "less than straightforward and reliable manner." The report said agencies have been using a number of "subtle and ingenious approaches" to improve their performance against targets and described a "'movable feast' mentality, where we find any reason to celebrate success or progress even though we have lost our sense of the purpose behind it all."

The report said, "Given the political capital the Government has invested into these result areas and targets, there is huge pressure on public sector managers to come up with favourable results. And come up with favourable results they do, as indicated in the latest results reported by the State Services Commission.[2] The problem is the people and agencies responsible for the results are also largely responsible for the analysis and reporting of them."

The New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse has also highlighted concerns with using administrative data (e.g. Police, courts and Child, Youth and Family data) to monitor trends, and recommended ways in which data collection could be improved. Administrative data is affected by changes in organisations' policies and procedures and accordingly, cannot be considered a reliable source of data for monitoring trends in family violence over time. For further information, see:

Gulliver, P., & Fanslow, J. (2013). Family violence indicators: Can administrative data sets be used to measure trends in family violence in New Zealand? Wellington: Superu


Gulliver, P., Fanslow, J. (2012). Measurement of family violence at a population level: What might be needed to develop reliable and valid family violence indicators? Auckland: New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse, University of Auckland


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