New report highlights benefits of early legal and social support for young people using violence in the home

Youthlaw, Victoria’s youth legal centre, is launching the Centre for Innovative Justice, RMIT’s Final Evaluation of the Pre-court Support for Adolescents using violence in the home (AVITH) Pilot.

The Report highlights that early, specialist legal and non-legal support and pre-court negotiations, often results in timely and effective outcomes for young people, reduces harmful contact with the justice system and improved safety for their families.

Youthlaw received funding from the Victorian Legal Service Board & Commissioner to develop and evaluate a pilot of an integrated and pre-court response to young people using violence in the home, who are listed as the respondents on an intervention order.

After some delays largely due to COVID-19 impacts, the pilot ran from January 2021 to June 2022 across western metropolitan Melbourne.

The pilot tested the idea that young people would experience better outcomes if they can engage earlier, before their intervention order court hearing, with specialised legal & social work support, in relation to their use & experience of family violence.  Early supports includes risk and needs assessments, providing legal information and advice, supporting young people’s engagement with services, and linking them to and putting in place broad supports to address the young person’s use of violence.

The Report found that the establishment of early referral relationships and pathways with a range of frontline services and agencies, meant that all young people received legal advice and other support prior to the day of court. It improved young people’s engagement and understanding of the legal process

Youthlaw pre-court advocacy and negotiation with Victoria Police and the Court resulted in the young people’s cases resolving sooner and mostly without the imposition of a court order. The evaluation found that the vast majority of young people supported through the pilot exited without any intervention order in place, and had alternative arrangements for safety, help and support in place.   The report also found the majority of associated criminal matters were resolved through police cautions or court diversion.

The capacity of the integrated practice team to link young people with relevant supports not only mitigates the risk of violence within the family, but also create a  space for young people to disclose their own experiences of violence. The report found that over two thirds of young people had experienced family violence, or been exposed to family violence in the home. 

The evaluators made 16 recommendations to build and improve the program. Central to the recommendations is Youthlaw continuing to work to strengthen current referral pathways, facilitate more eligible and suitable referrals, and exploring opportunities to establish new referral pathways.

Quotes attributable to Tiffany Overall, Family Violence Program Coordinator, Youthlaw

Youthlaw remains committed to continuing to strengthen this integrated, pre-court model to identify and respond to young people’s legal and non-legal needs; increase safety within families; and reduce harmful contact with the justice system.”

“We are excited to announce that Victorian Government has recently announced funding for Youthlaw to continue delivering this unique model of pre-court support to adolescents using violence in the home until end June 2024.”

Quotes attributable to Elena Campbell, Associate Director – Research, Advocacy and Policy
Centre for Innovative Justice, RMIT University 

“The evaluation found that the Pilot was overwhelmingly able to contribute to improved outcomes for young people.”

The Pilot clearly demonstrated the difference that earlier engagement with legal and non-legal supports can make to young people who are at significant risk of damaging contact with the justice system. This includes resolving matters sooner and without the imposition of an order in most cases.”

“The existing achievements of the Pilot should, therefore, continue to be consolidated and the promise of this intervention realised as an ongoing offering in Victoria’s family violence response.”

 About Youthlaw

Youthlaw is a community legal service providing free legal advice and representation to young people under the age of 25. Youthlaw is a fearless advocate for young people, and strives for a just and equitable society for, and by, young people. It does this byaddressing systemic legal and social justice issues in Victoria through community education, advocacy and law reform.