Helping vulnerable people to receive the services that they need as efficiently and effectively as possible is a major responsibility for local authorities.
Helping vulnerable people to receive the services that they need as efficiently and effectively as possible is a major responsibility for local authorities. Under the UK Government's Supporting People programme, local authorities are responsible for implementing housing-related services — both long and short-term — to cater to the needs of a range of vulnerable people including the homeless, people with alcohol and drug problems, victims of domestic violence and the elderly.
As an inner-city local authority the London Borough of Southwark deals with thousands of individuals that face many of these challenges. The borough's Referral Assessment and Resettlement team (RARS) works with service providers involved in around 70 projects and more than 1100 units of short-term supported accommodation that offer support, shelter and services to a wide range of vulnerable people in the borough.
Until recently the process of commissioning services and referring vulnerable people to service providers was managed using largely paper-based methods or manual data entry into a series of spreadsheets. Dealing with complex problems and a large number of service providers inevitably meant that the system of administration used by Southwark was not as efficient as the authority wished.
The Southwark RARS team handles more than 50 'voids' (ie a vacated place in a temporary accommodation unit or project) each month and needs to make sure that those that need help can take up empty places with as little delay as possible. Aware that their system of administration was not delivering as well as it could, and determined to seek improvement, Southwark's Supporting People Business Unit put out a tender for a new system that would help them to automate their business processes.
Having selected Capita Support, Southwark set about working in partnership with the software developer to develop design and build a new system.
The new system has been in place since December 2007 and already significant benefits are being felt by all stakeholders: the Southwark RARS team, service providers and of course the vulnerable people that the system supports.
The new system was designed from the ground up. Much more than a back-office support solution, it was designed to address the needs of team members working with providers and clients on the front line. Rather than attempting a major change in business processes, Southwark were looking for a platform that would support their current business processes far more effectively and efficiently. They needed,for instance, to cut the time lags between service providers registering a void or vacancy and that space being filled by an individual with relevant needs. Relying on manual entry used to mean that vacancies could take a number of days to show up on the system. Today it's a matter of seconds.
Matching clients' needs to provision is the core role of the new system. Availability of places at any one of the 70 number of projects in Southwark is kept up to date by service providers who share appropriate access to the system. The RARS team is able to enter the details of a client and see an immediate match between the needs that the individual has and whether there is the right support available to them.
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