Youth Insearch supporting at-risk youths through digitisation and automation

Youth Insearch has been on a digital transformation journey since 2014, which has helped it improve the way it supports young people through traumatic events.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Youth Insearch has been helping young Australians aged between 14 and 20 overcome mental health and wellbeing challenges through peer-led programs since it was established in 1985. These include supporting them through traumatic events such as drug and alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, family breakdowns, domestic violence, bullying, and self-harm.

Even though the not-for-profit organisation's support for youths continued to grow, its ability to keep its IT systems updated stood still. But that all changed when Stephen Lewin, who is currently the organisation's CEO, first joined as general manager at the end of 2014.

"When I came on board … I literally had just one server in the office; it was running on a 2003 [Microsoft] Access database and it was all paper forms," he told ZDNet.

"It was a volunteer coordination model, so we had a few regional community coordinators and those people from the community would fax their forms in or email their forms in, and the data entry person, who was only in three days a week, would enter the forms in this Access database that crashed every second entry."

After assessing the organisation's "biggest bugbears", Lewin took charge to shift Youth Insearch's single server onto Microsoft Office 365 Enterprise. FormAssembly was also adopted to streamline and digitise the organisation's form application processes.

Youth Insearch also looked to Salesforce to stand up a CRM system. "That changed the way we run our weekend workshops from four days of administration down to a few hours, probably about four hours … there's still a lot of work to be done but the administration person doesn't have to do those massive loads of data entry, and cross checking, and creating lists," Lewin said.

Since then, Lewin said Youth Insearch has built out its customer child protection application to manage and handle all the organisation's working-with-children checks, while also enabling volunteers who run the weekend workshops with youths to access their own data, including putting in complaints, if there are any, and reaching out for support.

At the same time, the organisation has managed to develop a case management platform so that "a young person can see the impact that their journey is having on themselves". Alongside this, the platform has been integrated with Salesforce Socialsuite to help clinical workers work alongside at-risk youths to complete surveys that are used to assess an individual's current situation, state of mind, and risk profile.

"When a young person comes into our program, there's about five or six tools of assessment they fill out at the start within the first four weeks in the case management sessions, and then every 90 days after that," Lewin said.

"A couple those are a suicide behaviour risk questionnaire and the other one is the self-harm inventory. The other one we monitor is the Kessler 10, which is a psychological distress measure. But essentially what we're able to do is they get filled out, and we've linked it by formula to actually complete a rating in the assessments object in case management, so the case worker can see right there how they assessed from the last [time] but also see how they're going over time."

When there is any indication of self-harm behaviour, staff at Youth Insearch are immediately and automatically alerted, which Lewin describes has been "game changing". Since the implementation of the automated workflow in January, it has resulted in 76 suicide risk alerts.

"I can see all the alerts on my homepage, but it also goes to the caseworker, the clinical lead sees that … whereas prior to that it was really just when interacting with young people, a social worker would use their inclination or their training. This is a measure that's a valid reliable measure that can actually give us an alert even though they're not presenting the suicide risk," he said.

Off the back of the organisation's digital transformation journey, Lewin acknowledged it made it easier for Youth Insearch to transition to remote support when the pandemic hit, by replicating its in-person weekend group workshops on Teams. Since March 16, Youth Insearch recorded having over 2,000 attendances at its 588 virtual weekly support group sessions, while also making over 7,000 support calls to at-risk youths during the same period.

Looking ahead, Lewin plans to further automate what he referred to as non-high value tasks by "integrating all of our systems and then we want to provide a seamless journey for our customer -- the young people -- the volunteers, through Experience Cloud and then through an app to be able to engage with our organisation".


  • Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
  • Lifeline on 13 11 14
  • Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
  • MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
  • Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36
  • Headspace on 1800 650 890
  • QLife on 1800 184 527

Related Coverage

Editorial standards