Our last Pulse Meeting held on Wednesday, 1 September was run by ECINS. They are a not-for-profit social enterprise who encourage collaborative ways of working across the public and third sectors.
Both Karen Connolly and Thomas Pettengell presented.
HOMELESSNESS SECTOR CHALLENGES
The potential of collaborative work practices to deliver more targeted and effective support, particularly in the homeless sector are well documented. This style of working, however, does depend on operating within a fully secure system. Privacy issues can create barriers to mainstream homeless systems due to a lack of communication and integration between homelessness services about common clients.
In their presentation both Karen and Thomas explained how they see certain key challenges come up time and time again.
“Without a single source of truth, we are flying blind,” Karen said.
“Without information, how can we ensure all our efforts actually make a difference? A vulnerable person with complex needs often requires the support from many services and multiple carers. In these situations, it is incredibly difficult, not to mention time consuming, to gain a holistic view of a person.
“This challenge belongs to us all … we are all part of the solution and the problem, every organisation, government agency and funding body. But how do we navigate this when we already have more to do than we can cope with? How do we ensure that everyone has a voice?”
In using a real-world example Karen explained an issue in the United Kingdom where traffickers recruited vulnerable children – excluded from school – to traffic drugs into rural areas and smaller towns. To stop the problem the London Mayor’s Office put a three-year program in place. Collaboration was needed across various teams comprising of local councils, charities and rescue and response teams.
ECINS was charged with designing a system to securely share information and reduce administration.
“From an initial four teams the initiative grew to over 40 teams all collaborating and sharing data,” Karen said. “600 high risk children were diverted from organised crime in the first year of the collaboration. It was also estimated that over 700 hours of administration were saved each year.”
ECINS created a simplified system needing just one referral form, moving to a triage desk and then direction to the most appropriate service. Previously every time a person was engaging with an organisation, they would have to create their own new referral form. Based upon 1,000 referrals per annum this automated process saves 25 weeks work of manually entering data. The system allows full or limited access to sensitive information.
NO WRONG DOOR vs ONE FRONT DOOR
So how could a similar system help in a homelessness space?
Using the No Wrong Door system approach when it comes to homelessness services it is an approach designed to help anyone regardless of which service or agency they connect with.
“It is a fantastic initiative,” Thomas said. “But there are inherent problems with this approach.
“What it ends up doing is increasing the administrative burden on the organisations who are part of the ‘No Wrong Door’ alliance. What we’ve seen happen in areas within the UK, is some organisations will take on referrals which are quick and easy to deal with. They will take them on and then they pass on (the client) through the ‘No Wrong Door’ to other agencies so they will abuse the alliance created for the benefit of the client.
“What we did to solve the issues was create ‘One Front Door’. What this looks like is the client goes to an organisation as a vulnerable person with x y, z that needs supporting. The organisation records the information and the problems that need to be triaged. Then in real-time allocation other organisations are notified automatically within the alliance.
“Should an organisation have capacity that person is triaged quicker. There is no administration time and a far more realistic approach for the client because they are receiving support they need from the organisation they need to receive it from much quicker.
“In Western Australia there are a lot of very small towns. If I was receiving domestic abuse in small town, I may know the person who works in the domestic abuse space. So, I would not want to go to them as gossip may get out. If they go to the next town then under the ‘One Front Door’ system this is possible because the alliance is now as big as you want it to be over an area as large as you want it to be.”
In the question and answer session the By-Name List was put forward as an example of how information sharing would work when several agencies are working to reduce rough sleeping and chronic homelessness. Consents by the client on what can or cannot be shared are done in the usual consensual process way.
Then under the ECINS case management module each client is a “filing cabinet” with a number of “draws”. Each organisation has a draw, and each has a lock. If someone wants to open a draw, they can’t open it. But if information does need to be moved between filing cabinets it’s in the filing cabinet to begin with so it is easy to move between the two.
The system builds a chronology of all the people that are working with a homeless individual, so a more effective holistic profile is created. The approach not only reduces the resources needed when a client is bouncing through multiple organisations it also stops client trauma by not having them repeating their stories repeatedly.
“This can often make the client ultimately feeling unheard and unsupported,” Karen said.