How CatholicCare Victoria Tasmania (CCVT) transitioned more than 1,000 Penelope users to remote service delivery virtually overnight
Written by Ray Sabharwal
“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.”
– John Maxwell
When I heard this incredible story from Francesca Gerner, Contract and Compliance Manager at CatholicCare Victoria Tasmania (CCVT), I decided to write about it because it is a perfect example of leadership in a time of adversity and shows the agility of a team that was able to pivot under pressure.
CCVT is the entity that joins 4 agencies: Centacare Ballarat, CatholicCare Melbourne Gippsland, CatholicCare Sandhurst, and CatholicCare Tasmania. CCVT has been providing support to vulnerable communities and addressing social disadvantages for more than 80 years, and they have a combined total of over 1,000 staff members, including volunteers, across more than 65 locations. They offer a wide range of services including family counselling, relationship counselling, school counselling, post-separation services, and education support.
Since 2016, CCVT has used Penelope across all four of their agencies and has grown the number of services they offer from 12 to 35.
In early 2020, Australia found itself entering a new era brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. A widespread closure of businesses was enforced by the government and Australian residents were mandated to stay at home to slow the spread of the virus. As the lockdown continued and people began to feel increasingly isolated, there was a surge in demand for mental health and other social services, and agencies like CCVT had to adapt quickly in order to meet their clients’ growing need for support.
The management teams at all four of CCVT’s agencies searched for alternative ways to deliver services to their clients, and ultimately decided to transition to online service delivery through their case management system, Penelope. The CCVT Project Team focused on fast-tracking this transition, and within a very short timeframe, all their services were ready to go live without any gaps, failures, or outages. I spoke with Francesca to get the details of this initiative and what made it successful.
What were the key challenges of this transition?
The transition period presented multiple challenges for CCVT at all levels. One of the first hurdles was moving our workforce from the office to working from home. This was complicated because a significant number of our workers were part of the vulnerable population and/or had to support their children as they transitioned to schooling online. We also had to ensure that all employees had a safe and secure environment to work in. The last significant challenge was teaching our staff to use different devices and communication platforms in order to effectively provide services.
How has your service delivery changed?
Throughout the outbreak, we ensured that our clients continued to receive the support and services they needed. The fact that our case management system was cloud-based allowed us to move from in-person meetings to online interactions quickly and seamlessly, and this was fundamental to the advancement of the project.
Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, members of the CCVT Project Team were already considering ways to enhance client participation through self-service information systems and more accessible service provision. The first phase of that project was going to be to start providing services online using tools like videoconferencing, so the COVID pandemic really just fast-tracked those plans. This first phase was scheduled to take 10 months, but because we understood and reacted to the urgency of the situation, we were able to complete it in just over two months. That included developing practice rules, implementing new tools, training staff, and going live across all four agencies, all 25 unique services, all 65 locations, and all 450 users. We were really impressed.
How was success defined for this transition?
We measured our success by how quickly and smoothly we were able to pivot from an office-based community service provider to a remote telehealth service provider. The transition of services happened with minimal disruption for our clients, so we consider it a success!
So, what’s next?
Even though the pandemic won’t be truly over for a long time, each agency under the CCVT umbrella is developing plans to bring staff back to their workplaces as restrictions ease.
Agencies are taking guidance from the government and other credible institutions regarding regulations and restrictions, and they will continue to adopt new ways of working and delivering services to clients remotely, where appropriate, while reducing the reliance on physical service delivery locations.
Some decisions are easy
CCVT chose Penelope as their case management software because it provides a client-oriented approach that supports the collection, analysis, and utilisation of data, which ultimately improves decision-making. Penelope has helped CCVT inform their strategic direction, improve service delivery, monitor the effectiveness of their programs and services, and measure client outcomes.
Tips for being successful
Agencies with multiple services and/or multiple locations can replicate CCVT’s successful transition to remote service delivery. The keys to success are:
- Communicate with workers, clients, and all other stakeholders
- Strong communication enabled CCVT’s operational responses to be minimally disrupted and ensured that all stakeholders were informed, increasing their willingness to support the organisation
- Learn from others
- Replicate what has worked for others in similar scenarios to avoid common pitfalls. Just remember to use reliable sources when following this advice!