As reporting requirements increasingly land community workers in a seemingly endless cycle of funding reports, Enclude CEO Eamon Stack explains that there is another way.
We in Enclude were struck by the cartoon in the last edition of Changing Ireland that showed a community worker toiling endlessly in front of a computer screen to address the reporting needs of funders. It doesn’t have to be so.
Enclude is currently working with partnership companies in Dublin to design an information management system that will remove some of the drudgery they are experiencing at present.
The system will manage their interactions with people they serve through the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP), assist with reporting to IRIS [a system used by SICAP community workers nationwide], and track interventions that are not currently recognised by SICAP categories.
In the past, we’ve done similar work in the addiction services area, working with the HSE and projects to develop custom-made client care and staff management systems.
A recent evaluation conducted with the addiction services shows that the system is helping them to generate savings in staff and management time worth almost €50,000 per year on average (equivalent to 285 working days per year), simply by cutting out duplication and reducing time spent on administration.
Furthermore, addiction services reported that they have saved 89 working days of managers’ and administrators’ time each year, and that there has been an annual saving of €18,000 on software licences.
The new system also helped to improve the quality of data available for management of interactions with clients, as well as the data available to meet funders’ reporting requirements.
Lisa Gavillet, development worker with the North Eastern Regional Drugs Task Force, told us: “Our eCASS system has given us a way to record and report on actual contact time, outcomes and progression of clients from a service perspective. This then feeds into a larger statistical gathering exercise providing timely and relevant information to funders and policy makers.”
Enclude in practice
When an NGO grows, it needs to have systems in place to handle that growth. Witness Pieta House’s Darkness into Light walks, which now see up to 120,000 people taking part annually.
Pieta House has grown significantly since it was set up in 2006. The non-profit organisation provides a specialised treatment programme for people who have suicidal ideation or who participate in self- harming.
Enclude has been involved with Pieta House since 2009, and has helped it to cope successfully with the growth.
As demand for services grew, Enclude developed a client relationship management (CRM) system so the NGO could easily produce up-to-date information on the use of their services and keep a record of client bookings.
In addition, Enclude set up a system whereby Pieta House and vulnerable clients could contact each other via text message. This also meant Pieta House could text reminders directly to clients and this has helped ensure high attendance rates at appointments.
The CRM system also enables the various branches of Pieta to share availability of therapists for emergency assessments. As a result, clinical support staff in any centre can see all available therapists in a shared calendar and book an appointment directly from the calendar. This means that, for example, if a distressed client attends at one centre where there might be no therapists available, staff can look at nearby centres and book an urgent appointment.
Mining data for policy and campaigns
In 2012, Pieta House recruited a new in-house researcher to interrogate the data from its centres and to identify the key issues emerging. Enclude worked with Pieta House over a three-month period to upgrade its systems so that they could produce that quality data. Many of the national news stories over recent years on suicide, suicide ideation and self-harm have been sourced from this unique database.
Pieta House founder, Senator Joan Freeman, explains how the data mined from its systems helped shape one of its campaigns:
“We saw from data that 48% of clients coming to our centres across the country were men. At first, we thought ‘Wow, so we are one of the few organisations in the country that men come to’. But our IT system let us see deeper than that and, on closer analysis, we realised that most of the appointments were made by women. This key insight prompted us to launch our ‘Mind Your Men’ mental health campaign.”
The Canal Communities Training Programme, TURAS, is a rehabilitative education and training programme for stabilised drug users. Trevor Keogh, manager, said Enclude’s eCASS system helped them support their clients to engage more effectively with their care plans and with getting into, or back to, work.
“This has really supported client engagement. For example, because of eCASS, clients can now move between addiction services with much greater ease, and staff changes in our own service generate much less disruption than they did previously,” said Trevor.
There are benefits for staff, too, as they now have less paperwork to do than before.
TURAS operates as a Community Employment Scheme, funded and supported by the Department of Social Protection, the HSE, the local Education and Training Board, and the Canal Communities Local Drugs Task Force.
Eamon Stack is the CEO of Enclude. Stack co-founded the company in 2006 as he felt strongly about reducing the digital divide he felt was apparent in Irish society. He is also a part-time lecturer in management information systems at National College of Ireland.
Additional reporting by Allen Meagher.