New 1800RESPECT provider to expand tele-support options

By Melissa Coade

January 27, 2022

Anne Ruston
Minister for women’s safety Anne Ruston. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Australia’s 1800RESPECT telephone counselling line will have extra options for clients, including text messages, video calls and referral follow-ups, from July 2022.

Minister for women’s safety Anne Ruston announced the new measures on Monday, noting that Telstra Health would implement them in delivering the national family, domestic and sexual violence support.

Telstra Health was chosen for the five-year government contract, valued at around $200 million, after ‘an extensive open and competitive procurement process’, the minister added.

Telstra Health was chosen for the five-year government contract, valued at around $200 million, after ‘an extensive open and competitive procurement process’, the minister added. 

“Following advice from the sector, we are making sure the technology improvements support a ‘tell it once’ model of service delivery to minimise the need for users to repeat their story,” Ruston said. 

The expanded teleservice will offer psychological support and referrals to people affected by workplace sexual harassment, as well as maintain de-identified and disaggregated data on contacts regarding workplace sexual harassment.

Professor Mary Foley, Telstra Health CEO, said that a fully integrated technology solution would be created for the 1800RESPECT service, providing a ‘seamless transition between channels’.

“Telstra Health will work collaboratively with DVConnect and other specialist providers, including Aboriginal community-controlled organisations and other organisations that support communities who experience barriers in accessing support,” Foley said. 

Since the tele-support service commenced in 2010, demand has grown from 20,000 calls each year to more than 286,000 calls and online support queries last financial year. 

Ruston said that a staged transition period was planned for the current provider Medibank Health Solutions to ensure there were no breaks in service during the hand-over to Telstra Health on July 1. 

“Through this process, we are ensuring the future service meets the diverse and complex needs of people seeking support, as our understanding of trauma and the pervasive nature of gendered violence continues to evolve,” she said.

The minister also thanked subcontractors Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre, Women’s Safety Services SA, DVConnect, and On the Line for their work supporting the 1800RESPECT service.

The funding model for 1800RESPECT has also been overhauled, with payment for the length of time that support is provided to an individual. This move away from cost-per-contact model would ensure the service was funded on the basis of user needs, Ruston said. 

The new contract marks the first time that ongoing federal funding has been set aside for the service. It was previously funded on a year-by-year basis.

After five years, there will be a possibility for the government to extend the 1800RESPECT contract with Telstra Health.


READ MORE:

Government spends big on primary prevention of sexual violence and harassment

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