safe steps Family Violence Response Centre is a social change organisation that works to eliminate violence against women and their children. safe steps is committed to providing equitable access to 24 hours, 7 days a week crisis intervention, counselling, advocacy, support, information, referral and emergency accommodation to all women and their children who are victims of domestic/family violence.
The work of safe steps saves lives, empowers women and also disrupts patterns of inter-generational abuse by protecting children from experiencing or witnessing further violence. safe steps is a critically important resource for all women, including women with disabilities, women with complex needs, and women who are further disadvantaged because they do not have permanent residency status.
As the Victorian family violence specialist in danger and lethality risk assessment, it’s essential for safe steps to maintain an immediate response to women and children affected by family violence.
Development of a Family Violence Accommodation Register – a tool to match women and children experiencing, or at risk of family violence, with appropriate places of safety was made possible with the support of the Victorian Government’s Public Sector Innovation Fund.
One in four women in Australia have experienced at least one incident of violence in their lifetime at the hands of an intimate partner.
When women are physically, emotionally or sexually abused, besides dealing with the immediate consequences of this violence, they often have little awareness of the support channels available to them.
Our brief was to develop a Family Violence Accommodation Register – to better match women and children experiencing, or at risk of family violence, with appropriate places of safety.
The existing process was time intensive to maintain and required significant manual intervention. Daily calls to around 30 refuges were required to check and update refuge vacancies and there were high levels of information double handling.
We used a human-centred design approach to come up with an appropriate solution. The project began with a significant research and discovery period. We began by interviewing and shadowing staff. We wanted to pinpoint actual needs, which we expanded through ideation, rather than just asking ‘what do you want?’.
We then analysed the process from the refuge’s point of view with a number of state-wide research and collaborative design workshops.
This discovery informed a period of iterative design, where we moved from sketches through to a high-fidelity prototype. At each stage, the designs were tested and refined with input from safe steps staff and refuges.
What you've shown us today is undoubtedly the best government platform we've seen.
As we moved into the build phase, our human-centred design approach ensured that our stakeholders felt a sense of shared ownership. The step-by-step check-ins meant the project had very few change requests, easier user adoption, simpler user acceptance testing and high confidence in the output.
For this project, it was of the highest importance that we ensure adequate security controls were in place. In accordance with the DHHS Information Security Classification Policy, the data transmitted and stored within safe steps needed to be classified as ‘Protected’ according to the Privacy Act, 1988. It was important for Conduct to ensure adequate controls were in place, appropriate to this security classification. To do so, we conducted a System Risk Management Plan to assess the risk and effectiveness of these controls to mitigate the threat level.
As a result, the new Family Violence Accommodation Register made the referral process more secure for sending documents, allowing for increased confidentiality for the women using the service. Further, it increased the duty of care and accountability for both refuges and safe steps case workers. The system also became more personalised as the parameters for what is an “appropriate” refuge became customisable, based on the individual safety requirements for the woman.
The system now also allows instant access to real time data about what availability each refuge in Victoria has on a given day helping to speed up the response time.
Early feedback has been very positive and adoption has been successful across the board. A Case Manager told us “The register has been going really well and it has saved me SO much time in the referral process.”
We’ll be continuously monitoring usage, efficiency gains and feedback reports.