Using a “common elements approach” in Victorian human services

Although the Victorian human services system is guided by various frameworks according to context, different approaches and service models are used across the system. It is within this service context that an evidence-informed “Common Elements Approach” is being developed for further refinement and testing, as applied to child and family services, Child Protection, and a specialist family violence setting.

Evidence-informed common practice elements (common elements) are discrete techniques or sets of strategies used to engage clients and facilitate changes in behaviours. They are found across empirically supported interventions (“common”) or based on evidence drawn from multiple sources. For this project, CEI (in partnership with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency) was engaged by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services to:

  • develop a set of evidence-informed common elements of practice that can be used within child and family services, Child Protection, and specialist family violence settings
  • develop an overarching implementation framework for the common elements approach
  • try out the implementation model with five trial sites and adapt it (if necessary) to guide future implementation of the common elements approach across the State.

Based on a review of evidence, and informed by extensive sector consultation in collaboration with The Centre for Excellence, CEI identified 11 common elements for testing and refinements in a range of child and family service contexts across Victoria (including one Aboriginal community-controlled organisation), a Child Protection setting, and a specialist family violence setting. The common elements were chosen to capture practices that are widely accepted as widely relevant and that met a range of specific evidence and implementation focused criteria.

Embedding these evidence-informed common elements into a system-wide practice framework will require strong implementation support, involving managers and practitioners assessing, planning, embedding and maintaining processes and practices that support their uptake. CEI and its partners have developed an implementation framework which combines purposeful, active, and integrated approaches to implementation designed to enable positive implementation outcomes, improve services and ultimately, lead to improved outcomes for service recipients.

The collective application of these common elements across the system, supported by an implementation framework, will promote a shared understanding of good practice that will increase the frequency of their use and the quality of their delivery. This is expected to result in a more integrated service response for anyone that has multiple system interactions across a range of services.