VOCAL & Apricot
VOCAL Inc NSW (Victims of Crime Assistance League) is a NSW based charity organisation that aims to provide emotional and practical support to victims of
crime and their families.
Since its inception over 28 years ago, VOCAL’s charter has focused on addressing the evident gap in the provision of these emotional and practical support services, particularly to victims and family members who have have their lives impacted by violent crimes.
Challenges - Out with the old and in with the new
VOCAL has been using Microsoft Access as the main database for over 10 years – originally designed for the victim support agencies in the UK. However, it wasn’t long before they realised as their database started to grow, that it was becoming slow and quite restrictive.
As a result, they began searching for a case management solution that was cloud based as the organisation began to do a lot more outreach, spending times in courts and networking so required a database to access critical information at anywhere, anytime.
From a staff perspective the requirement was for a system that was much quicker, simple to use, cloud based technology, and held all relevant information. The Victim Support Unit is partially funded by NSW Justice, but there was no possibility for extra funding for an updated database.
That didn’t stop Kerrie Thompson, Acting CEO at VOCAL, from pursuing her goals. Kerrie is a firm believer of being at the right place at the right time. VOCAL were fortunate enough to acquire a large donation from a family in Sydney and this provided the opportunity VOCAL needed to bring on board a cloud based solution that could help make recording and reporting more effective.
A Tailored Solution Delivering Operational Efficiency + Anywhere, Anytime access.
From the time the Apricot solution was implemented it started to quickly make a difference to VOCAL.
Firstly, prior to Apricot coming on board, staff were not able to take any work home and had to be in the office to access their client information. With a cloud-based solution now securely in place, Apricot has made it easier than ever before for the VOCAL team to access information from anywhere, anytime.
Another key advantage of the solution was that data would be stored in one place.
VOCAL had the opportunity to tailor the solution the way they wanted and how it would best suit the requirements of the organisation and their five users that includes the CEO, Victim Support Specialists and an office Administrator.
“The fact that we could design it to the way we wanted was ideal– it was tailored to record and document the specific information we need. We can easily access case notes, and relevant information specific to court dates, court outcomes, as well as other services that are involved with helping the client” – Kerrie Thompson
The Apricot solution has now been in place for over 8 months and VOCAL have already started to reap some of the early benefits from the solution particularly in the way they work with their clients.
From an operational efficiency perspective, the Apricot solution has laid a solid foundation for the entire team. The team can now focus on providing more personalised support to clients rather than focusing on the administrative tasks at hand plus record all their donor information and have everything stored in the same place.
There is still enormous potential for the solution, and Kerrie is the first to admit it.
“At this stage we have yet to use the database to its full potential.”
“We are using it to record client notes and to measure outcomes and it’s difficult to measure outcomes for victims of crime as they all have different needs.”
Crime and the related trauma reactions affect people differently, and there is no one size fits all approach. Our clients tend to fluctuate between different stages and therefore have different needs,” said Kerrie.
“When we do funding reports or apply for Government grants it can be difficult to articulate outcomes, given the individual nature of trauma. This spurred along my thinking about needing a better system to manage our information as well as having simple access to core information when and as required” – Kerrie Thompson
VOCAL’s future with Apricot
A question posed to Kerrie, was angled around how VOCAL would prepare to measure outcomes over the next 2-3 years?
“Up to now we’ve tried several ways to accurately record feedback and outcomes – including sending surveys our via email. We don’t feel comfortable as an organisation with having people fill out an evaluation form immediately after they’ve had a session with us – quite often they are very emotional”.
“Instead the VOCAL team now fill out the feedback section in Apricot as they receive direct client feedback (either verbally or by email), or feedback from other service providers. Staff observe client’s reactions and behaviours, for example, a client may come very distressed yet by the time they leave they are feeling calmer; feeling validated and have a sense of focus. Our staff can record the observation into the Apricot case management solution, and our staff can also keep track of court dates and outcomes” commented Kerrie.
Applying for a funding grant from the Attorney General’s office comes around once a year. Kerrie admits that they haven’t applied for an external grant for over a year. Given the nature of the work the focus has always been on victims safety and support first, although this is slowly changing and using Apricot they have started to see this change. “Having a quicker, reliable and easy to use database now means that I can access the relevant statistics quicker, as well as client feedback and outcomes”.
“We don’t want to be bound to a computer having to enter case notes for hours and hours at a time, instead we want to be focused on emotionally and practically supporting victims of crime– so the Apricot solution has enabled us to do this” says Kerrie Thompson
When asked where she sees the future for VOCAL heading over the next few years, Kerrie’s focus in 2018 will turn to help promote and raise the profile of VOCAL in the market.
“In addition to victim support, I would like to focus on PR and building the profile of our organisation in the public domain.
No one expects to be a victim of crime, so our organisation is not often high on people’s awareness. We’ve been in the Hunter Region for 28 years and people often come and say they have never heard of us. People hear about us from local police, or via word of mouth or the internet”.
“Community education forms a big part of VOCAL ongoing commitment to education particularly around family violence. We would like to get into more schools to help educate about safe relationships, and the dangers of sexting and sexual harassment”.
One of their key goals once Apricot is fully onboard is to generate the necessary statistics and then put forward a request for funding to different government bodies.
“As a team we regularly talk about what will happen when we are fully operational with Apricot,” said Kerrie.
“As we start to effectively use the solution for reporting purposes and extracting the necessary statistics we can start to formally put in the ask for community funding grants for specific school projects and then use this money for education.”
“We just need to get the data in the system and then be able to extract the relevant information as needed.”
One critical area that we do use Apricot for is not only case notes but to enable our staff to record information around media contacts, feedback, committee meetings and we do a lot of advocacy for victim’s rights.
“The charity side of VOCAL also does a lot of advocacy work for victim’s rights,” confirmed Kerrie.
“So while we might be dealing with one person that may have a particular issue, for example a victim impact statement, we are able to record this in a different section of the Apricot database, and when other people come in with a similar issue we collate all of that under the same issue and then advocate around that specific issues. It saves us from saying ‘who was that person that came in the other day and had that same issue six months ago’.
“Apricot enables us to not only record the client’s personal information and issue, but it also records general systemic issues that we can utilise to lobby for change.”
“This is where we work towards legislative change and can say ‘this isn’t working for crime victims and there are another fifteen victims that are saying exactly the same thing,” said Kerrie.
“Apricot has already started to make a significant difference to our organisation.” – Kerrie Thompson
Another big selling point for VOCAL is the easy access to Technical support, and the forum.
“It’s made a huge difference to our workplace and we are only small – if the bigger organisations start using Apricot I can only imagine the kind of impact they will start to see in their work.”
Apricot is an extremely secure and flexible not for profit software solutionthat offers case management, client, donor and volunteer tracking as well as outcomes management.