Improving outcomes for survivors of family and domestic violence by leveraging digital transformation

Canon Business Services Australia

Thursday, 07 March, 2024

Improving outcomes for survivors of family and domestic violence by leveraging digital transformation

More Australians are at risk of serious harm from family and domestic violence than ever before, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Exacerbated in part by the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic, these crimes increased by 12% in 2020 alone.

The South Australian Government’s Family Safety Framework (FSF) was implemented in 2013 to provide a coordinated cross-agency, cross-sector service response to at-risk women and children. Unfortunately, the framework’s initial paper-based processes and Excel spreadsheet-managed systems were not sustainable, impacting both the delivery of services and the protection of victims.

To identify specific opportunities to drive efficiency through digital transformation, the South Australian Government Department of Human Services (DHS) brought in Satalyst — a leading Microsoft cloud partner, now part of Canon Business Services ANZ (CBS) — to develop a comprehensive Domestic Violence Management Solution that would improve outcomes for the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

Inefficient delivery threatens critical services

Delivering against the aims of the Family Safety Framework requires extensive collaboration between stakeholders across industries, geographies and agencies — from social workers through to the South Australian Police (SAPOL). Yet despite the importance of this collaboration, DHS previously lacked a single source of truth that could facilitate proper communication.

For instance, referring at-risk victims to Family Safety Meetings (FSMs) — the fortnightly sessions held in each policing region to share information and enable action — used to be a manual process involving the sharing of highly confidential information through email, without appropriate document control measures.

This resulted in a number of problems, notably:

  • Unstructured and untraceable data sharing: While members involved in the process did sign confidentiality agreements and follow information-sharing protocols, the way information was shared amongst stakeholders was unstructured and was not systematic enough to be traceable or auditable.
  • Unvalidated data falling through the cracks: No formal process existed to confirm that risk assessment (RA) and FSM Referral forms were coming from a valid source. With no single source of truth, stakeholders also struggled to identify persons who had previously been associated with RAs and FSM Referrals — particularly those who moved between policing regions.
  • Paper-based processes increase security risks: Because the execution of the framework was heavily paper-based, multiple copies of documents and other related information were being kept, increasing the risk of confidentiality breaches and safety issues.
  • Manual processes increase frustration and costs: The administrative processes involved in organising and managing the FSMs, as well as keeping track of case registers, multi-agency action plans, meeting attendance and follow-ups were cumbersome. This resulted in a disproportionate amount of time being expensed on administrative overhead.

Not only could this time and effort be better utilised in actioning services and supports to help those in need to move through the system quickly, but process limitations also risked re-traumatising victims by requiring them to retell their stories as they sought support.

Complete visibility through the cloud for key stakeholders

To resolve these and other challenges, Satalyst designed and built a unified, 360-degree-view Domestic Violence Management Solution that could track both victims and offenders, in addition to enabling data input and collaboration across services, sectors and workforces in a structured and secure way.

These outcomes were achieved using Microsoft Dynamics 365, Microsoft Azure, Custom Web Apps and Power Apps across a series of discrete modules, including:

  • a web-based, self-service Family Support Portal
  • a community portal for support agency workers
  • a fully digitised case management system with enhanced reporting capabilities for various stakeholders.

Across these modules, Dynamics 365 Customer Service captures and stores the service-specific information required by the FSM Committee. All information and documentation initiated at the Risk Assessment and Referral can then be entered directly into Dynamics 365, which sits on the Microsoft Dataverse to securely store the data. As a result, Domestic Violence Management Solution Officers are now able to manage data via Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM, run reports that create documents associated with RAs and Referrals, and coordinate with FSM chairs to conduct any necessary meetings.

Any Positive Action Plans, meeting minutes, or follow-up actions that arise from meetings can be communicated back to the officers as updated or newly created documents, which are stored in Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM against their respective Referrals.

Within Microsoft Dataverse, custom tables specific to the domestic violence case management scenario are created and populated with data from Dynamics 365 and other sources using Power Query. Power Platform services draw on this central data store to create and run apps, flows and intelligent agents, avoiding the need for a third-party integration to unify data.

As the Solution is fully adopted — and as more data is captured through its ongoing usage — DHS will be able to use Power BI and other technologies to produce more advanced analytics and reporting to further improve victim outcomes.

Security best practices control access to sensitive data

Given the sensitive nature of the data being shared, security was a top priority for the solution.

Dynamics 365 and Azure Active Directory Identity and Access Management (IAM) mechanisms enable role-based and record-based security, limiting users’ access to only the level required to do their jobs. User identities are validated by Azure Active Directory and multi-factor authentication, while limitations on print privileges and screen timeouts also help protect confidential information.

Additional security controls within the modules support more granular data-sharing: individual users and teams to be granted access to records they don’t own on an as-needed basis, in order to facilitate specified, collaborative efforts while still preventing unauthorised access to records.

Scalable, centralised solutions create a brighter future for survivors

By creating a centralised source of information, digitising resources and automating processes, the Domestic Violence Management Solution enables new self-service functionality, reporting capabilities, enhanced security protocols and interactive dashboards that give the department’s key users a clear and detailed overview of current cases.

Apart from this newfound efficiency and security, the most important impact of the solution is the difference it makes for family and domestic violence victims. By facilitating better information sharing about high-risk families, the new modules enable agencies to provide more streamlined, collaborative assistance that makes a difference in the lives of vulnerable residents.

Top image credit: Jorruang

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