Warrington Borough Council is developing a name as an entrepreneurial public body with a growing reputation for innovation. The town has seen the transfer of its housing stock to Golden Gates, an award-winning housing association, which is now part of the Torus Group. Warrington has also seen the establishment of Livewire, a leisure and arts community interest company (CIC), as well as Warrington & Co, the town’s urban regeneration partnership.
Sitting alongside these new businesses is Catalyst Choices, another CIC, which was set up in 2015 to deliver adult social care services to around 700 customers across Warrington. Formerly Warrington Borough Council’s in-house care provider, the independent social enterprise has an annual turnover of £8.5 million and employs 350 staff.
Catalyst Choices was set up to meet four challenges:
Catalyst Choices inherited a traditional business structure with fixed resource patterns. Its new CEO David Osborne felt that modernising business practises and operations was the key to responding to these challenges. Osborne identified a number of areas which had to be tackled if Catalyst was to become a leading care provider.
David Osborne said: “I knew we had to look at our employment practices, skills sets and support services including HR, financial services, payroll, administrative systems, productivity, performance information and technology base. I felt that we could get more from our existing resources as the basis for growing and modernising our business.”
Osborne knew Housing Support Pro had a track record of delivering similar transformation programmes within the public sector. Housing Support Pro was engaged to help transform existing technology infrastructure and systems, to reduce operating costs, as well as identifying and implementing innovative business solutions.
Housing Support Pro began by carrying out a detailed review of the existing IT infrastructure. This review provided a basis for reducing support service costs, a platform for engaging remote sites and employees, establishing a business partnership model using new ICT infrastructure platforms.
Housing Support Pro provided Catalyst Choices with a fully managed, integrated IT service, covering software, hardware and support. Using its market insight and procurement expertise, Housing Support Pro has identified systems that meet Catalysts requirements and make financial savings.
In 2016, Housing Support Pro helped Catalyst Choices to migrate payroll from Warrington Borough Council’s system onto a new account management system with Sage 200, then Sage HR.
Housing Support Pro enabled the full Sage HR package to be embedded from April 2017, with the next step being migration into Sage CRM, assisting with managing Catalyst Choices’ entire contact base in one place.
Housing Support Pro also enabled the internal sharing of documents to become more effective by introducing a SharePoint intranet, which integrates with Office 365.
This is linked to putting all manual records online to improve workflow efficiencies and reduce administration costs.
Reducing support costs means that Catalyst has been able to appoint a business development director to lead on growing Catalyst Choices.
With the introduction of these new IT systems, Catalyst Choices has brought a number of services in-house. For example, absenteeism can be reported to the board and the business development director now has more detail to provide a more commercial approach to customer enquiries.
Catalyst Choices is examining new ways that technology can continue to support its business. For example, iHome247 monitors, which enable independent living, have been piloted by Catalyst Choices as a well-being monitoring solution for supporting domiciliary or home care.
By March 2018, Catalyst Choices will be self-sufficient with ICT business process functionality:
David Osborne said:“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’s solutions offer 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.”
Peter Fitzhenry, of Housing Support Pro, added: “We’ve enjoyed the challenge of helping David and his team deliver business transformation. By reducing business and operation costs, we can help Catalyst meet the emerging needs of the people of Warrington.”