The response to COVID-19 and the introduction of physical distancing and isolation measures can significantly compromise the safety and privacy of survivor victims of violence, abuse and neglect and their ability to access services. Additionally, the transition towards the provision of services via telehealth, raises additional risks for survivors and may provide them with fewer opportunities to safely disclose violence and abuse.
This guidance has been developed to support health services and practitioners address and respond to the increased safety risks that people experiencing violence, abuse and neglect experience when accessing support via telehealth. In doing this, it seeks to support health services and practitioners:
Please note that this document complements the Telehealth section of
Violence, abuse and neglect and COVID-19.
Service policy and procedures should generally preference face to face service provision rather than telehealth where it is known a client is currently experiencing violence, abuse or neglect or a clinician has identified concerns related to these issues. Please note that a blanket exclusion is not recommended as there will be a range of considerations that clinicians and services should consider. Including, for example:
The following list provides insight into what local service protocols and procedures should promote when assessing the appropriateness of telehealth services for individual clients.
If client discloses and violence, abuse or neglect either directly, or by describing behaviours that constitute it, practitioner’s response should include:
Many factors contribute to risk and no one factor is singularly causal. However, the presence of certain evidence-based risk factors can indicate severe or lethal violence by men against their female intimate partners:
Source: Costello, M. & Backhouse, C. (2019).
Avoiding the 3 ‘M’s: accurate use of violence, abuse and neglect statistics and research to avoid myths, mistakes and misinformation – A resource for NSW Health Workers. Education Centre Against Violence and Prevention and Response to Violence, Abuse and Neglect (PARVAN) Unit (Ministry of Health)
NSW Health provides a range of specialist Violence, Abuse and Neglect Services across NSW. For further information visit
PARVAN or your local health district's intranet for local referral pathways.
Further information on local DFV referral pathways can be accessed from your LHD’s NSW Health Worker’s Guide to Identifying and Responding to Domestic and Family Violence. Please visit your LHD Intranet or contact your district’s VAN Manager.
A number of resources about COVID-19 have been developed to provide information for and support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including:
NSW Health recognises that professional practice of health workers often intersects with personal experiences of violence, abuse and neglect, and that during this time of increased distress, NSW Health staff have access to a range of supports in addition to those including but not limited to
domestic and family violence leave provisions and
Employee Assistance Programs. Employees are encouraged to speak with their supervisor or human resources team for further information and support