A former council care provider says it is well on the way to reaping essential efficiency gains after embarking on a programme to modernises its systems and infrastructure. Since it embarked on the revamp of its technology and processes back in 2016, Catalyst Choices says it is has seen steady improvements in its performance and is well on track to achieve the target it set of 20% efficiency gains. Catalyst Choices is a community interest company
(CIC) that was established in 2015 to deliver adult social care services to around 700 people across Warrington. Before then, it was the borough council’s inhouse care provider.

Nowadays, the social enterprise has an annual turnover of £8.5 million and employs 350 staff. Like any organisation operating in this field, however, it faces some tough challenges. Warrington has an increasingly ageing population, and this is creating pressure
on public resources, especially around care and health. It means that coming up with innovative ways to meet these demands is a must: that includes finding smarter ways of working, so that the CIC can do more with less as the business grows. Catalyst Choices brought in Housing Support Pro (HSP), which specialises in mobile working solutions, to help it achieve these aims through the overhaul of its office processes and transform operations.

The CIC had inherited a traditional business structure from its days as a council provider, but its new chief executive, David Osborne, felt these were no longer suited to the challenges it faced. A root-and-branch modernisation was required.

“I knew we had to look at our employment practices, skillsets and support services, including HR, financial services, payroll, administrative systems, productivity, performance information and technology base,” Osborne said. “I felt that we could get more from our existing resources as the basis for growing and modernising our business.

“Our IT journey with Housing Support Pro has been about taking back control from Warrington Borough Council and making our IT systems work better to match our aims. We’ve achieved what we set out to do. Housing Support Pro solutions provide tangible financial benefits.
The biggest saving has been in improved systems, productivity and effectiveness, as we no longer have to go through a third party to resolve any issues.”

The process began back in 2016, when HSP helped the company to transfer its payroll from the borough council’s systems onto a new account management system with Sage 200, then Sage HR. The latter package was fully embedded from April 2017, with the next step being migration into Sage CRM. Alongside this, HSP introduced a SharePoint intranet, with integrated Office 365, which enabled a more effective sharing of internal documents. Manual records, meanwhile, were put online to further improve workflow efficiencies and reduce admin costs.

By March 2018, Catalyst Choices had become self-sufficient. The new systems meant the company was able to redeploy three members of its admin staff, while overall staff productivity was up from 80% to 90%. Other benefits included:

  • With the introduction of smartphones and iPads, staff are now able to access online forms from any location. This has reduced the strain of admin services by 10%, enabling to visit more people in a day
  • The systems offer more accurate and comprehensive management information, it claims, meaning Catalyst Choices can provide greater assurance against the Care Quality Commission ratings

The company is now looking at how technology can further support its business. For instance, it is piloting the use of iHome247 monitors. These are said to enable independent living by monitoring people’s well-being in the home, thereby helping with home care support.