Exploring a 'common elements' approach in Victoria

Family of multiple generations together

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” was 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' or 'practice elements') are discrete techniques or sets of strategies used to engage clients and facilitate changes in behaviours. They are found across many empirically supported interventions (hence, “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. The common elements were chosen to capture practices that are 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 requires strong implementation support, involving managers and practitioners assessing, planning, embedding and maintaining processes and practices that support their uptake. Along with our partners CEI 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, promotes 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.

CEI is now working alongside Victoria's Department of Families, Fairness, and Housing to roll out common practice elements at scale through the Family Preservation and Reunification Response. A case study about this work is here

For further information on how common elements can help build an evidence informed policies and practice sooner watch a common elements explainer animation.