IMPROVING THE EVIDENCE BASE - OVERVIEW
A cost effective way for organisations to improve the current family, domestic and sexual violence evidence base is through the enhancement of existing sources of data, namely administrative by-product and survey data. Deciding on which of these data types to use depends on the type of information required, and the amount of available investment.
The use of administrative data can provide significant benefits as it uses existing infrastructure, can be timely, available for smaller geographic areas, and, has the potential to yield information about specific target populations. This information can be used to answer questions about service provision, resource capacity and utilisation as well as the impacts and outcomes of contact with services (Ruuskanen and Kauko, 2008). However, access to these data may require changes in legislation that allow for data sharing within current privacy and confidentiality protocols. There are also limitations to the sort of questions that administrative data can answer, as the reliability of information is dependent on the quality of data from operational systems.
Alternatively, surveys can be used to address more specific sociological questions related to prevalence, determinants and those that do not disclose their experience to services or police (Ruuskanen and Kauko, 2008). Through the use of survey methods information about a wide range of experiences of family, domestic and sexual violence can be collected. However, it is noted that not every experience can or will be captured as some people will never disclose their experience of violence. While surveys offer information that are designed to meet specific user requirements, they are often expensive to run, conducted infrequently and may not provide robust information about small geographic areas or subpopulations (e.g. the elderly or women with a disability).
In the context of the National Plan, both survey and administrative data should be combined to create a comprehensive picture of family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia (Chung, 2013). However, developing and conducting new topic-specific surveys may not be a practical option in the short term, and comes at a higher cost compared to administrative data improvements. With this in mind, the remainder of this paper focuses on strategies to improve existing administrative data holdings, but recognises the importance of survey data in this field.
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