Community Safety

Safer Pathway Evaluation

Women NSW, 2017-18


Safer Pathway is a key initiative under the NSW Domestic and Family Violence Blueprint for Reform 2016–2021, led by Women NSW and delivered by the Department of Justice. It was a system-wide reform, enabling the state to respond better to any claim of DFV regardless of where and who the victim was. Rather than an individual service or program, Safer Pathway provides state-wide service system infrastructure designed to ensure all victims of domestic and family violence in NSW receive a timely, effective and consistent response, regardless of where they live. It offers victims a tailored, coordinated service based on their needs and the level of threat to their safety.

Safer Pathway intends to facilitate streamlined referrals and to help victims of DFV receive a timely and consistent approach that secures their safety and supports their recovery. The approach seeks to ensure that the system identifies victims of DFV who are at risk from the initial point of contact, and prioritises responding to those at most serious threat, while promoting information sharing between agencies to avoid victims of DFV having to re-tell their stories and to prevent re-victimisation.

Safer Pathway has five key components:

  1. Domestic Violence Safety Assessment Tool (DVSAT): a common risk assessment tool
    that uses evidence-based criteria to assess the threat level to victims.
  2. Central Referral Point (CRP): an electronic platform that refers to incidents of DFV to
    Local Coordination Points (LCPs) based on location and gender.
  3. LCPs and Local Support Service: contact victims after a referral from the CRP to re-
    administer the DVSAT and provide safety planning and case coordination
  4. Safety Action Meetings: fortnightly meetings to coordinate service responses for
    victims rated ‘at serious threat’ by the DVSAT.
  5. Information sharing provisions: based on legislation in the Crimes (Domestic and
    Personal Violence) Act 2007 and Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act

We conducted an independent evaluation to assess if the initiative was implemented as intended and meeting its objectives, and to identify opportunities for improvement.


Using a realist-informed, mixed-method approach, drawing on and synthesising qualitative and quantitative data sources, the evaluation was conducted in two stages. It examined the program interactions and, where available, outcomes for female and male victims in situations of intimate and non-intimate partner violence, assessed as a threat or serious threat.
Stage 1 consisted of evaluation design, literature reviews, interviews and a survey. We also reviewed the CRP – the primary quantitative data source.

Stage 2 data collection included key informant interviews, a stakeholder survey, and studies of Safer Pathway activities and outcomes in six sites. Analysis was undertaken of program outcomes and patterns of engagement in Safer Pathway processes for different groups of victims of DFV. We also conducted a validity review of DVSAT risk assessment tool.


Our evaluation of Safer Pathway found the program is delivering a consistent, effective and timely response to victims across NSW. As a result of Safer Pathway:

  • victim’s safety is being routinely assessed by NSW Police and victims at serious threat is being prioritised throughout the Safer Pathway service response
  • a single, streamlined referral pathway has replaced the previous service fragmentation and duplication, helping victims to access the support they need and facilitating information sharing between service providers to prevent threats to a person’s life, health or safety
  • there is now a standard level of service for victims across NSW, with victims at high
    risk now receiving a more consistent, coordinated response across NSW and across service providers.

We also identified 23 recommendations to improve the service model and delivery. These related to:

  • expanding referral pathways from other agencies and services
  • continuing to provide and strengthen state-wide training
  • revising the current DVSAT to enhance its predictive ability
  • investigating strategies to engage hard-to-reach groups and address service gaps
  • developing and implementing more systematic data collection for monitoring and evaluation.

Women NSW and partner agencies are using the evidence and recommendations in the report strengthening the service response to victims of DFV in NSW, documented in their response to the report.

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