One of the nightmare scenarios for anyone exposed to domestic violence is the retelling required before authorities and support agencies can act.
With each retelling the victim relives what happened, when and how. And there are many victims.
According to White Ribbon Australia, over a 12-month period, on average, one woman a week is killed by a current or former partner. One in four children has been exposed to domestic violence, while two in five assaults reported to police in 2016 were family or domestic-violence related.
Now technology is helping to address the problem, by creating a central repository of information which is collected once, held securely, but accessible to ensure families receive the support they need without constantly having to retell their story.
The Domestic Violence Action Centre (DVAC) has been operational since 1994 and, with a team of around 50 people, is focussed on the abolition of all forms of violence against women and children. It provides a range of support services to Queensland’s Ipswich and Toowoomba regions and supports 800-1,000 people every quarter.
Chief executive officer Gabrielle Borggaard, explains that while DVAC does not provide shelter or accommodation itself – it can help families find refuge, and also support them to stay in their own homes if an in-depth risk assessment deems it safe enough.
Instead of having to ask over and over again what happened, to whom and when, DVAC has rolled out Microsoft Dynamics CRM providing authorised users with secure access to comprehensive case notes.
It is also providing a rich source of analytical data that can be used to tailor services for families and inform advocacy.
The most important benefit though is to the women themselves, says Borggaard. “When they call our service we can instantly pull up a name, we can double reference to make sure we’ve got the right person and all of her information is there and that includes phones calls, it includes any emails we’ve sent, it includes when the last conversation was.
“We’ve got all of our case notes in there; we’ve got the current risk factors and danger assessments. So she doesn’t have to tell her story every time she rings us, which is important because she might not always get the same person just because of the sheer volume that we’re working with.
“We’ve got their story; they don’t need to tell it again.”
The data can also prove an important source of information for resultant court cases.
“We’re very mindful of what we record and obviously women, anybody, who comes to our services, are informed of confidentiality and how that works and limitations thereof,” says Borggaard.
DVAC first deployed its client and stakeholder management solution about seven years ago to replace a largely paper based manual approach to record keeping.
Dynamics CRM proved the intuitive platform DVAC needed and melded with the organisation’s workflow and processes. It offered a repository for client information, safety planning, and processes. It also supported DVAC’s mandatory reporting needs.
“Part of our reporting requirement with the Department of Communities is to report things like output hours and demographic data and throughput,” says Borggaard, adding that the quarterly reporting requirement was streamlined by the solution.
Latterly DVAC has been working with Microsoft partner Beyond CRM to customise cloud-based Dynamics, which has been provided by Microsoft under special not-for-profit pricing, to meet the organisation’s unique needs.
“One thing that was really important was having a system where we didn’t need to click numerous times to get to something, because staff are often on the phone and particularly in our crisis intakes space, staff are on the phone, they have headphones and a microphone and they’re talking to women and at the same time they’re inputting this data, doing a danger assessment or risk assessment. Inputting all of that information and still needing to be alert to the women – we can’t have a system that’s really onerous.
“We’ve ended up with a product that’s really intuitive and customised to what our needs are internally, our service flow – those type of things,” she says.
The cloud-based solution ensures access is available to any of DVAC’s authorised personnel when and where they need it. Tight integration with Microsoft Outlook which is used to schedule appointments and communicate with clients, stakeholders and support services has also been important.
In addition Borggaard appreciates the inherent flexibility of Dynamics CRM, compared to other more rigid solutions, and is exploring how tighter integration with the phone system might allow a client record to pop up on an employee’s screen the moment they call.
DVAC is continually seeking ways to make even more impact and is trialling a service hub for the Toowoomba-Darling Downs region.
Using a laptop and Skype for Business, local women can visit the community centre and communicate directly with DVAC in order to increase access to support services for families outside the major metropolitan areas. OneNote meanwhile allows documents such as Protection Orders to be shared.
She is also planning to make more use of the data that is collected in the system, for example to perform more analysis around DVAC’s danger assessments. “Getting an idea of say, how many of our clients might be presenting with some of the high-risk indicators like strangulation, stalking or monitoring, or where he’s got access to weapons.”
The ability to create reports on specific demographic data such as the age groups of affected women, number of children involved and their age is also being explored in order to hone DVAC’s strategy, identify key areas for advocacy, and provide clearer community information.
Ultimately it’s the clarity that the information solution provides that is delivering critical benefits, says Borggaard.
“I think it means that there’s less women that fall through the gaps. Less women that we don’t call back, because somehow the message has gotten lost somewhere.”
Instead the message gets through loud and clear ensuring that families needing support can access it as soon as possible, allowing them to get their lives back on track.