Liaison essential in family harm role

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by Claire Allison

Police in South Canterbury are attending about 30 to 35 family harm episodes a week, and they all come across Paul Hampton’s desk.

In his new role as the police’s family harm co-ordinator, Senior Constable Hampton has an overview of those call-outs, which, he says, are getting more complicated by blended families, methamphetamine use, housing problems, and those involved having more complex needs.

Mr Hampton has been carrying out the co-ordinator’s duties for about a year, and was appointed to the position in March.

Each morning he will review overnight call-outs.

“I’ll look at what’s happened overnight, and make sure that our guys are doing a good job to a consistently high level, and then add value to whatever they are doing .. that might be engaging with other agencies, like social workers, health, drug and alcohol, NGOs, Housing New Zealand, looking at what are the needs of the people at risk, and what are the needs of the perpetrator.

“Historically, there has been quite a lot of effort made with our victims .. but if we can’t change something with the perpetrator, then we are not going to do much about the overall problem.”

Mr Hampton believes it is important that the organisations and agencies involved with those affected by family harm have the knowledge they need to deal with it.

“For me, the personal thing that I have tried to bring into the role is to really improve the collaboration that we have with other agencies.

“I’ve been talking to GPs, talking to the Ministry of Education, and last week I spoke to a kindy about a family having some issues. Those are all people who have had contact with those people at risk.

“It’s important that, where it’s warranted, that they know the police have been in the lounge at 2am dealing with mum and dad, and they’ve got the child in their class the next day, or a GP has a child who presents with a bed-wetting problem.”

A 28-year veteran of the police force, Mr Hampton has seen a huge change in how police have dealt with family harm callouts.

“When I started in the police, we’d be saying ‘has anyone committed an offence, can I lock someone up?’ And then, over time, we started taking someone away to a friend or family member’s house .. and then we had the introduction of police safety orders.

“It’s constantly evolving, how we respond to family harm episodes, and improve the outcome for those families. For some families, it’s to permanently remove the perpetrator; in others, it’s to help them get past the current problem.”

The “eyes wide open” philosophy required police to be aware of more than just the immediate situation.

“If we go into a house, and there has been a verbal argument, then we are also trying to find out what the reasons for the argument were, get some more background. .. Is there food, is there enough money in this household? Is everyone adequately clothed?

“These are all things that might create tension between parents who are just struggling.”