Supporting the journey of vulnerable children, young people and families with Dynamics 365

“Providing a solution that records the care and demonstrates the impact on the well-being of our vulnerable young people has been a powerful use of our data. We can track the journey of these people and put in measures to improve the well-being indicators and we can illustrate to our funders how their money is being spent and the impact their money is having on our services and service users lives.”

Ros Dowey, IT Manager, Aberlour

Aberlour is a leading children’s charity in Scotland with a history spanning over 140 years. The charity provides a range of services, support and advice for vulnerable children, young people and families in Scotland.

Aberlour continually adapts its services to meet the needs of those children facing the most overwhelming of obstacles; giving those children the best possible start in life is at the heart of everything Aberlour does.

Aberlour has developed specialist services including residential care services for young people of all ages, support to children whose lives are affected by parental alcohol and drug use, support for young people who are not in education or employment, residential care and respite services for children with the most complex needs and severe disabilities.

A complicated and clunky legacy system which staff avoided

Charities are competing for a shrinking pot of money so demonstrating the impact a charity has on users’ lives is very important to Aberlour as it helps them to secure funding for existing projects and to win bids for funding future projects.

Central to this is the way that Aberlour collects and records data on the young people they work with. Evidence-based information was needed to both record the journey of the young people throughout their time with Aberlour as well as to support funding bids.

Ros Dowey, IT Manager for Aberlour said “Our legacy system was quite clunky to use and reporting was poor because extracting and pulling together the necessary data was challenging. Because the system was complicated many of our users, some from social care backgrounds, did not necessarily have the technical skill to use it to full effect. For this reason they were put off using it, or avoided it altogether, so the information it provided was often not reliable.”

Aberlour’s heavily bespoke system needed replacing for a future-proofed, easy-to-use solution that would enable a single source of a young person’s record. Aberlour selected the Microsoft Dynamics 365 platform to give them what they needed as well as the familiarity of the Office 365 environment that their users were already comfortable with.

  • Poor reporting
  • A complicated system
  • Low user adoption
  • Non-reliable data

A single source of case management information for young people

Aberlour migrated to Dynamics 365 with Incremental Group, having been referred to them through Shelter, another Not for Profit customer of Incremental.

“We wanted an intuitive system from which we could produce reports from more easily.” Ros Dowey of Aberlour explained, “We are familiar with Microsoft, having been supported by them for many years and, as we already use Office 365, it made sense to stay within this technology.”

Pamela Matheson, Information Systems Analyst at Aberlour said, “Dynamics 365 has allowed us to become more self-sufficient, as Incremental Group has supported us with skills transfer, so we can do many tasks ourselves instead of going back to a single supplier for any changes.”

Data from all the files is kept in one place allowing the team to have a single source of case management information for each young person. Each supported young person has a record of everything that takes place to do with them stored within Dynamics 365, including risk assessments, all interactions, any incidents or safeguarding concerns, supporting documentation and demographic information.

There are automated alerts so that staff are kept informed about what is going on with a particular case in a more timely fashion and with the added knowledge that this information is dependable instead of relying on manual intervention.

The new system also incorporates processes for raising incidents or safeguarding concerns. This means that where an incident or safeguarding concern is raised for a young person the Safeguarding Manager and the relevant Assistant Director are automatically alerted and can review the situation and assess how it was dealt with.

Ros Dowey explained, “The solution allows us to record and manage the well-being of individuals who use our services with appropriate safeguarding and risk assessments in place.”

Built into the platform is the SHANARRI (Safe, Healthy, Achieving, Nurtured, Active, Respected, Responsible and Included) framework used in Scotland for working with young people. SHANARRI is a holistic approach for assessing a young person, giving a score for each indicator to enable the charity to focus on improving one or more aspects according to need. Building the framework into the platform has enabled Aberlour to track how indicator scores have changed during their young people’s journey and demonstrate the impact that their services are having on the young people’s wellbeing.

The range of 42 services across Scotland that Aberlour offers is wide reaching, from residual homes for children in care, disability respite services to guardianship services working with asylum seekers who are under 18. Pamela Matheson, Information Systems Analyst explained, “Finding a solution that could accommodate our needs across our services, all with different strategic themes was a challenge, which is why Dynamics has been a good and agile platform, as it’s customisable and works for each of these 42 services.”

"Finding a solution that could accommodate our needs across our services, all with different strategic themes was a challenge, which is why Dynamics has been a good and agile platform, as it’s customisable and works for each of these 42 services."

The ability to provide young people with complete and accurate account of their journey

  • Evidence-based information supports funding bids – Aberlour now has visibility of all its recorded data, all in one place and can use this to demonstrate the benefit and impact of its services to funders. Pamela Matheson, Information Systems Analyst said, “Having this evidence-based information at our fingertips is important when we’re bidding for new tenders and helps identify areas where additional services may be required. This could include supporting material on arguments for additional care packages or extending the time that a young person needs to be with us. It makes it much easier for us to demonstrate what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”
  • Children and young people have a clear account of their time with Aberlour – Ros Dowey, IT Manager for Aberlour explained, “For many young people who have been brought up in residential homes and who may not have a clear idea of what happened to them when they were younger, they need the ability to find out more. By recording our data accurately we are more easily able to tell these people what their journey was like with Aberlour and hopefully show them that they had a positive experience.”
  • Consistent and timely processes for raising incidents and safeguarding concerns – These are built into the system and are much more streamlined with timely notifications to the relevant stakeholders within the organisation.
  • User-enriched experience with intuitive Microsoft tools – Moving to Dynamics 365 in line with the existing Office 365 solution has given users a native, enriched experience. This has resulted in an excellent take up and positive feedback from users.
  • Built in data protection and GDPR compliance – Dynamics 365 has given Aberlour higher levels of security by having all of its data in the same place, including personal data relevant to GDPR. Dynamics 365 enables control and management of who has access to data, together with the ability to set up privileges and access restrictions. Data retention rules have also been built into the system to ensure that information is only held for as long as legally required.

“For many young people who have been brought up in residential homes and who may not have a clear idea of what happened to them when they were younger, they need the ability to find out more. By recording our data accurately we are more easily able to tell these people what their journey was like with Aberlour”.

The first giant step in the journey of digital transformation

Aberlour now has a Dynamics platform in which they can build in line with our future needs. Ros Dowey, IT Manager for Aberlour explained, “The project has enabled us to take a big step towards our digital transformation journey, moving from a bespoke legacy system with files stored in lots of places to having one very resilient, stable and flexible system with a single record and source for each of our service users. This was the first giant step in the journey but not the final step.”

The capabilities delivered by this project will be used by Aberlour to facilitate a number of mobile initiatives including potentially the ability for foster carers and volunteers to input data directly from across Scotland. The enhanced, integrated platform will ensure a simpler, quicker way of achieving these goals.

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