Understanding risk frameworks

  • Your service might be the first place a person impacted by domestic or family violence contacts for support
  • Understanding risk is an important part of responding well
  • Risk frameworks contain a staged process for responding to sexual, domestic and family violence

What are risk frameworks?

Risk frameworks have been developed to help professionals provide an integrated response to disclosures of domestic and family violence.

Workers and agencies can find it beneficial to use a particular framework to guide their practice. A number of evidence-based risk frameworks have been developed in Australia, which include tools for screening, assessing risk, safety planning and risk management. While adopting a framework can help guide practice, assessing risk is specialist work and requires particular skills and knowledge. Not every worker is expected to implement a risk framework, but all workers can benefit from knowing about risk assessment approaches. A part of this is recognising and responding to the 'red flags' that signal when risk to women and children is high. Training in the use of risk frameworks from qualified training providers is recommended.

Understanding risk

Understanding risk is an important part of responding  appropriately to disclosures of domestic and family violence.

Risk frameworks contain a staged process for responding to disclosures of  domestic and family violence. All workers should familiarise themselves with their organisation’s risk framework and the key risks of domestic and family violence they refer to. Training in the use of risk frameworks and tools from a qualified training provider is recommended.

The first step is screening, to identify that violence is occurring. The process continues by asking some general questions about the presence of risk factors and the level of fear the woman may be experiencing for herself or the safety of her children. This is followed by a full and comprehensive risk assessment, best undertaken by specialist domestic and family violence services. Safety planning needs to happen after each stage of the process and is part of helping to manage risk. 

Screening, risk assessment and safety planning tools form the basis of responding to domestic and family violence. It’s important to understand that these tools are linked and should be seen as part of an ongoing response process. They should not be used as stand-alone tools or documents, instead they should support the approach outlined in the frameworks.

Tools for understanding risk

  • Screening is an informal process that aims to open up a conversation about domestic and family violence. It should create an atmosphere in which the person using the service feels supported to discuss what is happening for them. Screening can improve the rate of disclosure
    • See the Screening content for more information on this step
  • Risk assessment is more in-depth and systematic than screening. It should be used when domestic or family violence is suspected or reported. Risk assessment tools provide a structured way of finding out about the risks women and children may be facing when experiencing domestic or family violence. While an understanding of the process is beneficial for all workers, a full risk assessment should only be carried out by a specialist service
  • Safety Planning can help improve the safety of a person living with violence or who has recently left a violent situation. Safety planning needs to take into account a person’s individual situation, including diversity factors

Knowing what the evidence-based risk factors are does not mean that all workers should do risk assessments. What it does mean is that everyone who encounters domestic and family violence in their work should understand the general issues around risk so that they can take appropriate action. That action might be referral to a specialist agency that can respond with a detailed risk assessment, safety plan and support. In other instances the best course of action might be calling the police.

Risk frameworks

Each state and territory in Australia has processes for risk screening and assessment. The governments of Victoria and Western Australia have frameworks for screening and risk assessment based on the qualifications, experience and sector of workers. Becoming familiar with these documents is a useful way to gain an understanding of risk and safety. The frameworks can be used in many different work environments.  

Services can use these models as a starting point for developing an approach to risk screening and assessment. Where a state or territory does not have a framework, training with a specialist domestic and family violence training provider can also help with developing responses to domestic and family violence that take risk and safety into account.

The two frameworks are listed below with a brief description and links to the resources.

Common Risk Assessment Framework (CRAF

The Common Risk Assessment Framework (CRAF) is also known as the Family Violence Risk Assessment and Risk Management Framework. It was developed in Victoria to guide common approaches to assessing risk where domestic or family violence is present. The CRAF has been an important tool to help to build an integrated system and to standardise responses of  services across Victoria. It is used in a diverse range of specialist and mainstream settings.

The framework promotes:

  • A shared understanding of risk and family violence
  • A standardised approach to recognising and assessing risk
  • Appropriate referral pathways and information sharing
  • Risk management strategies that include ongoing assessment and case management

The framework includes:

  • A practice manual 
  • Fact sheets 
  • Links to training
  • Screening protocol
  • Risk assessment tool

Visit the Department of Human Services for more information on the framework.

Common Risk Assessment and Risk Management Framework

In Western Australia, the Domestic and Family Violence Common Risk Assessment and Risk Management Framework (CRARMF) is used. Now in its second edition, it was developed for use by all government agencies and community sector services. It promotes a consistent and collaborative approach to identifying and responding to domestic and family violence. The CRARMF is based on the Victorian model and modified for the Western Australian context. It addresses some of the particular needs of Western Australian women and children including access to the specific service system and strategies when living in remote areas.

Visit the Department for Child Protection and Family Support for more information on the framework.