Clients typically register their details before using a service – the ubiquitous ‘paperwork’. But what if registration also involves being screened for safety risks in families like domestic violence or suicide? How do clients feel about doing paperwork then?
‘Not too bothered’, according to a sample of 134 clients at community services agency Relationships Australia SA who had just completed a form screening for risk in families before seeing a practitioner. The study, presented at the inaugural Stop Domestic Violence Conference in Canberra, found 94.3% of clients agreed doing the ‘paperwork’ was a benefit to themselves and 92.6% saw the paperwork as helpful to their practitioner.
Crucially, clients were also asked anonymously if they thought it was easier to reveal ‘personal and sensitive information’ either on a form or face-to-face with their practitioner. Over two-thirds (68.3%) said ‘on a form’. This surprising finding – since replicated with another sample of clients – means practitioners need to think hard about how they detect risks with their clients.
The findings show that if practitioners skip on universal screening forms then they may be making it harder for clients to divulge big risks. Or at worst, some clients might not disclose risks at all. And given practitioners need to know about safety risks as early as possible into a session – so that referrals, safety plans or crisis calls can be arranged – then universal screening forms in the waiting room could be an efficient engagement tool. But ideally, a combination of universal screening forms and proactive inquiries by practitioners will maximise detection rates to cover all client preferences.
The form used in this study was DOOR 1, a freely-available universal screener after relationship separation by Jenn McIntosh (1). Developed to identify a range risks across the family after separation – not just domestic violence victimisation – over 7, 000 DOOR 1 forms have been completed at Relationships Australia SA since 2012.
Jamie Lee| Principal Researcher| Information & Data Management | Research and Evaluation
Relationships Australia, South Australia.