Gandhi Nivas success enhances hope of reducing family harm

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Massey Report on the intervention model released in Parliament

Venkat Raman
Wellington, July 1, 2020

Ethnic Communities Minister holding the Massey University Report on Gandhi Nivas. Others in the picture are (seated from left) Police Minister Stuart Nash, Gandhi Nivas Chairperson Ranjna Patel, Police Commissioner Andy Coster (Standing: from left Gandhi Nivas Advisory Board Members Inspector Rakesh Naidoo, Venkat Raman, Mark Vella; Deputy Commissioner Wallace Haumaha, Massey University Professor Mandy Morgan and Gandhi Nivas Advisory Board Member Dr David Codyre

A well-organised intervention programme, run efficiently and equally important, adequately funded  can reduce the occurrence of family violence, Ethnic Communities Minister Jenny Salesa has said.

Launching a Massey University Report on the functioning of the Auckland-based Gandhi Nivas in the Executive Hall of Parliament last night (June 30), she said that over a period of five years, the intervention model reduced reoffending by almost 60%.

Among the other speakers at the event were Police Minister Stuart Nash, Undersecretary to Justice Minister Jan Logie, Police Commissioner Andy Coster, ACC Chief Customer Officer Emma Powell and Gandhi Nivas Chairperson Ranjna Patel.

A Panel discussion relating to the family violence, delivery of counselling services at Gandhi Nivas and the role of the Police formed a part of the evening with participants including Deputy Commissioner of Police Wallace Haumaha, Sahaayta Counselling and Social Support Director Sucharita Varma and Massey University Professor Mandy Morgan.

The Report, titled, “Gandhi Nivas 2014-2019: A Statistical Description of Client Demographics and Involvement in Police Recorded Family Violence Occurrences,” was based on a research undertaken by Massey University to assess the functioning of Gandhi Nivas which was established in December 2014 to address the increasing incidence of family violence and offering counselling perpetrators, who are often ignored.

The Report accompanying the Research confirmed the effectiveness of Gandhi Nivas, saying that 57.5% of previous offenders did not reoffend after engaging with the Gandhi Nivas service.

Jenny Salesa with Ranjna Patel, Jan Logie, Emma Powell and others at the Executive Hall of New Zealand Parliament on June 30, 2020.

Complexity of family harm

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said that the Research demonstrates that the complexity of family harm can be addressed by providing immediate support and intervention for the perpetrator, victim and whanau.

ACC Chief Customer Officer Emma Powell said that the elimination of family and sexual violence is a key focus of ACC’s investment in injury prevention programmes in New Zealand.

“We are proud to have been a seed-funder of Gandhi Nivas and the work it is doing to reduce harm and keep families safe. Our investment over the past four years has funded access to counselling 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We are pleased to see the Massey report confirming the programme’s effectiveness in changing the behaviour of men who commit acts of family violence,” she said.

Gandhi Nivas Chairman Ranjna Patel said that the findings of the Massey University Report provide a compelling proof of concept for the interventionist model.

“If you want to see transformational change in this country, you have to work with the men who are inflicting violent behaviour in the family home. It is important to support the victims of domestic violence, but that will not change a man’s behaviour. To end violent behaviour, you have got to find and address its source,” she said.

About the Research

Led by Professor Mandy Morgan and Dr Leigh Coombes of Massey University, the Study evaluated how Gandhi Nivas has been working with the men who were served with a Police Safety Order, following a family harm incident in their homes.

The Study concentrated on the first home of Gandhi Nivas in Otahuhu (which opened in December 2014), covering a five-year period from January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2019.

Gandhi Nivas operates two other homes, one each in the Te Atatu Peninsula in West Auckland and Papakura in South Auckland.

“Instead of removing victims from their homes after a family harm incident, the Gandhi Nivas interventionist Family Harm Programme removes men from their family home, provides them with temporary housing, 24/7 specialist counselling and support to begin behavioural change, while a wraparound support service is offered to whanau,” the Report said.

New hope in reducing family harm

Professor Morgan said that the team’s evaluation provides insights and data on the success of the Gandhi Nivas and offers hope that properly resourced early intervention can contribute to addressing the real problem of violence in our homes.

“Men aged in their twenties and thirties are the predominant age group at Gandhi Nivas. Ages range from youthful to elderly – the oldest client is 84 years old and the youngest is 15. A majority of clients are between 20 and 40 (55.98%), with almost 30% in the 20-29 age group,” she said.

Dr Coombes said that lack of employment is a significant issue facing Gandhi Nivas clients.

“In total, just under half of intake cases (49.72%) show that the client was not in employment at the time they resided at Gandhi Nivas with 47.75% specifically recorded as unemployed,” she said.

According to the Report, relationships with intimate partners and family members accounted for 95% of family harm incidents. 32% were the intimate partner of the victim, 30% were the parent, 20% were the child of the victim, and 7% were siblings. For those involved in intimate partner violence, 69% were cohabiting.

About Gandhi Nivas

Gandhi Nivas is a partnership between Serenity Foundation, New Zealand Police and Sahaayta Counselling and Social Support. The Partnership was established in 2014, using a Lotteries Commission grant and funding from Total Healthcare PHO and other private funders.

The concept grew from discussions between Counties Manukau Police and its South Asian Police Advisory Board with the objective of providing early intervention and prevention services to people identified as at the risk of committing family violence to help them change their behaviour, reduce the likelihood of further family harm and increase safety for families.

Gandhi Nivas is partially funded by ACC. It provides emergency housing and counselling to men who have been issued with a Police Safety Order (PSO) following an act of family harm. Participating agencies describe the initiative as innovative and ground-breaking.

“Once a man is issued with a PSO, he must leave the family home for a set period of time. It is at this point that some men are taken by Police to one of three Gandhi Nivas homes in Ōtāhuhu, Te Atatu and Papakura. This immediately decreases the likelihood of further family harm, increases safety for the family, and provides the offender with an opportunity to begin the process of behavioural change,” the Report said.

Major Social Problem

Family Violence is a major social problem globally, disempowering and paralysing women physically, psychologically, sexually and economically.

One in three women face some form of violence in their homes; every four minutes, Police are called to a Family Violence incident and Police believe that 12% of women actually make the call.

Although there are some organisations that cater to the needs of women and children, there was a need to shift focus on involving men in prevention strategies. Services of these organisations are usually provided during the working week (Monday to Friday) hours, while most incidents occur in the evenings and on weekends.

Gandhi Nivas is a round-the-clock, round-the-year facility and is governed by a board.

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