Victim advocates play an essential role after law enforcement interviews to ensure victims’ needs are met, securing food, shelter, counseling and contact information for specialized services.
Listening with a trained ear, and connecting victims to appropriate and available services are fundamental to the job. Via text, chat, email, phone or face to face, compassionate, trauma-informed, human to human interface is the most important part of victim support work. Since the application procedure itself is typically complex, detailed and demanding, it can be re-traumatizing for victims. In handling this work on behalf of victims, victim support organizations are already providing an important service. And while data collection, reporting and associated paperwork is the technical part, it’s necessary to get the system moving and resources flowing. So this part of the job, too, is critical.
Anything that can be done to protect the quality of grant applications while speeding up the reporting process will benefit both victims and victim advocates. Advancements in technology should ease the burden of transcribing handwritten notes, eliminate duplicate tasks and decrease the time spent in front of the computer screen.
But not all technologies are created equal.
Some programs, software and systems feel like they’re making the process more laborious, rather than easier. Insufficient room for detail, inflexible design, a cumbersome user experience, and nowhere to turn when the technology fails adds to paperwork headaches, rather than relieving them. When you evaluate case management, reporting and grant application software, consider how important these features are to the job you need to get done.
Typically, victim advocate organizations demand that their case management software be:
1. Accessible remotely
Cloud based systems allow volunteers and employees to take and enter data from anywhere, and immediately share information with regional and national partners. Filing information while ‘on the scene’ or from convenient locations saves an immense amount of travel time, keeps employees focused on their clients, and eliminates the need to return to an office or a centralized system just to proceed with a claim.
Of course, any system that keeps, shares and reports crime scene information must necessarily be a secure environment, and offer different levels of authorized use. Victim support organizations may want some input as to what information gets stored, who can access it, and how long it remains available. Victims need to trust that their information is private, protected, and will be used only to process their needs.
Because every organization has unique approaches to the workflow and reporting of victim support, the best case management software will be customizable, ready to adapt to the information, location, type and end use of the data entry process. Organizations need to have input into how and which reports they generate, compatibility with granting partner forms, common language, terms and terminology, and the type and format of information they need to capture.
It’s critical to be able to get help when it’s needed. No matter how intuitive a system is, technology isn’t fail-proof; the quality of training and support can make or break a system. Responsive client service means errors are corrected and questions get answered quickly, so the important work of advocacy continues with fewer and shorter interruptions and delays.
In any organization there will be multiple users at various levels of access who will be using the system. Software ceases to be affordable when an organization has to keep paying for additional “seats” and licenses. An ideal technology solution will have a clear, tiered pay structure or, even better, unlimited use for a set annual investment.
Victim advocate organizations need ways to improve and streamline reporting processes so they can reinvest time back into program delivery. Technical solutions can be the answer, when they’re done right and deliver on the promise to cut time spent on data entry. As information gathering and grant applications become more efficient, victims receive funding sooner, which could mean securing food and safe shelter sooner, getting the emotional support they need sooner, or returning to work and establishing a stable routine sooner. Faster reporting will cut down the time advocates devote to paperwork, which frees up more time to take care of victims, and take care of themselves.
Advocate Advantage is an enthusiastic group of professionals with deep criminal justice and victim advocacy experience dedicated to delivering technology solutions that increase efficiency, help people, and make the jobs of those we serve easier to do.