July 13, 2017 | Written by: Graham Strange, Manager, VCAS and Dave Mead, Team Leader, VCAS and Richard Whittaker and Paul Mitchell, co-founders, Orcuma Ltd.
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In October 2007, Fiona Pilkington and her disabled daughter Francesca Hardwick died in a car fire Pilkington herself set. She saw no other way out of their unbearable circumstances. Over a 10-year period, the family was harassed and bullied by groups of local children.
The system failed the Pilkington family. Police missed opportunities to record information, investigate or take any action. The family should have been recognized as vulnerable but was not. Then it was too late.
This is why public service agencies need an effective multi agency case management application such as the Flexible Information Reporting Tool (FIRsT).
Using FIRsT to support victims
The Victim Care and Advice Service (VCAS) helps victims of crime to cope and subsequently recover following their victimization. VCAS uses the FIRsT system to record details of the incident, and assist in the development of a victim needs assessment and subsequent recovery plan. The system allows the victim care officer and their supervisor to monitor the case under supervision, carry out “quality of service” surveys and provide “outcome and output” monitoring data.
FIRsT is a secure, cloud-based CRM application that can act as a multi-agency case management system to connect public safety teams such as police, fire and rescue services, health and social care agencies, domestic violence organizations, mental health facilities, and housing associations, enabling them to share information and collaborate.
Screenshot showing council, police and fire incidents plotted on a map with details displayed for all users to view.
Here’s how FIRsT works: a victim care officer manages cases and provides support. FIRsT keeps track of basic client data and information about the crimes. A victim care officer performs a needs assessment to identify recovery and support needs. The assessment is broken down into eight specific areas, including physical/mental health, risk of repeat victimization, housing security, family and friends, social isolation, financial support needs, drug or alcohol misuse as a result of the crime, and attitude to recovery. The reasons why victims are vulnerable and in need of help to cope and recover vary. These could include if someone is young, old, a victim of a hate crime, has learning difficulties or a mental health illness, is a refugee or asylum seeker, or is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The main factor is that they need some help to move on following their victimization.
After the victim needs assessment is completed, the FIRsT system automatically generates a score that helps to identify the level of risk to the victim and is graded accordingly as either serious, high, medium or low. During the course of the support the grading of the case can fluctuate in response to the victims needs at the time. The victim care officer works together with the victim on a coping and recovery plan.
Everything is documented. Every contact, whether it be by telephone, letter or when a victim care officer engages with partner agencies, is recorded in the notes section of FIRsT. Doing this gives a very good history of what support has been given and helps to identify if there’s something that might have been missed.
Additionally, there’s an alert system that helps victim care officers manage their caseloads. If a case has been closed, it can easily be reopened if, for example, there is a court case coming up. The victim might be okay at the time (low score), but in as the court date approaches, they might be feeling anxious (high score). The victim care officer can re-engage, look at the needs assessment again and make adjustments.
FIRsT also enables supervisors to monitor victim care officers. It measures the difference based on needs assessment scores between the time a victim first engaged with VCAS and the time they left the service, which demonstrates agency impact.
A cloud-based solution
Because FIRsT is cloud-based, it is accessible from anywhere. The solution was developed by Orcuma Ltd, a software development company that concentrates mainly on the public sector community safety market.
FIRsT was born when Orcuma developers noticed that customer relationship management (CRM) products on the market weren’t flexible enough for some users and were expensive to implement. FIRsT can be tailored to other applications. For example, one of Orcuma’s clients uses it to manage their charity and volunteering case work.
Orcuma uses an IBM Cloud bare metal server infrastructure to support FIRsT. The simple and speedy provisioning process and dedicated servers ensure compliance. Of utmost importance is that IBM Cloud provides security of data, uptime and availability without any dropout.
Donald (not his real name), a VCAS client, is a man in his mid-50s with significant learning difficulties. He lived alone and had a job at a supermarket where he collected shopping carts. Donald used a moped to get himself to and from work.
Donald was targeted by local youths and over a period of 6 months, he suffered 6 burglaries and repeated acts of vandalism to his home. Events came to a head when his moped was stolen and set alight outside his address, this robbed him of a big piece of his independence, denying him the ability to travel to and from his workplace.
A group of neighborhood kids stole Donald’s moped and crashed it into his garage, breaking his windows. Then they set fire to the moped outside of his home. Donald woke up the next morning to find his garage had been ransacked and his moped was destroyed. He was devastated.
Following this incident, local youths began to taunt Donald in the street, mocking him about the fact that his moped had been destroyed and this had a significant impact upon his feeling of isolation and fear.
Local police invited VCAS to support Donald after he got into an altercation with kids that were harassing him. He lost his temper and retaliated, making threats in front of shoppers who didn’t realize the history, and that Donald was clearly at the end of his tether. The police conducted a risk assessment and identified Donald as being at a significant risk of further victimization, his mental health had been severely affected and he indicated that he had contemplated suicide.
As a result of these concerns a multi-agency meeting was held and the Victim Care and Advice Service were requested to provide Donald with emotional support and advocacy.
A needs assessment was conducted with Donald and a number of areas of vulnerability were identified and a subsequent recovery plan agreed. Donald’s needs assessment score was high. His mental state was very poor. VCAS held a multi-agency meeting to decide how to support him. He was taken to a mental health service cafeteria where he was introduced to people.
One key issue was Donald’s accommodation, he clearly needed to move from the area to escape the ongoing anti-social behavior and to be closer to his work place. Donald’s home was in a chaotic state due to his depression, he had not been tidying up and was hoarding large amounts of property, the housing providers would not consider moving him until the property was decluttered and cleaned.
VCAS enlisted the support of the local volunteer Police Cadets (young people aged 15-17 years) who spent a considerable amount of time at his home, cleaning and tidying the property. This had a huge positive impact upon Donald, who perhaps for the first time in his life was the center of people’s attention and he had the chance to meet decent and well-meaning youngsters rather than the criminal element who had abused him in the street. Donald began to take more of an effort in his appearance. He had his hair cut and no longer appeared disheveled. His self-esteem soared.
Some weeks later, there was an incident at Donald’s place of work, where he was harassed by the youths in the supermarket car park, Donald lost his temper and reacted with verbal abuse and threats. This was witnessed by a number of customers, who not knowing the backstory made formal complaints to the store’s management and Donald found himself in front of a discipline hearing facing dismissal from work.
Donald’s victim care officer attended his discipline hearing and was able to speak eloquently on Donald’s behalf drawing upon the facts and information recorded in the FIRsT system. Donald did not lose his job, and the store employed more security guards.
Eventually Donald did move house and is able to walk to work, although still affected by the impact of the crime he is in a much better and more positive place physically and mentally. His case has been closed but should he fall victim to any further crime, the FIRsT system has logged every phone call made to partner agencies, recovery strategies and other significant contacts which will provide an excellent blueprint for further support.
Donald’s needs assessment score was up and down during the time VCAS was engaged with him. The journey to recovery isn’t a straight line.
Donald is on a good path today. If he was to have further problems, VCAS are now in a position to refer to the case notes to establish the type of support that was most successful for him. There is therefore a really good blueprint for supporting him in the future.
Making a difference
FIRsT enables VCAS to see the differences made in people’s lives over time and demonstrate positive outcomes. The data collected in the system helps victim care officers identify the things that really matter for victims of crime.
Because of the FIRsT system, there is abundant evidence of VCAS’ activity, grading of needs and variable levels of risk. Everything is recorded, which gives the agency confidence in its processes.
The system likewise helps identify existing vulnerabilities that increase likelihood of people becoming victims in the first place such as having learning difficulties, suffering a mental illness, rough sleeping or having a drug or alcohol addiction.
VCAS is able to take preemptive steps prior to a crime, which reduces crime overall and improves the well-being of people and society as a whole. An example is support given to help to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of fraud.
Learn more about VCAS and Orcuma in the case study.