1625 Independent People (also known as ‘1625ip’) supports young people in the south-west of England, mostly in Bristol and South Gloucestershire, and in certain neighbouring areas.
They provide a range of services: high-support live-in accommodation, shared housing, and independent housing with floating support. They provide specialist mental health support services as well as education and employment training. Their focus is on young people who need housing, and they also work to prevent youth homelessness by working in schools to provide peer education and raising awareness of homelessness.
The organisation, which has a staff of about 120, gets its funding from local authorities, independent funding bodies and social investors. All commissioners and funders require reporting on the effectiveness of 1625ip services against specification, so it is crucial for them to have clear, accurate, and coherent reports to show the value of their work.
The problem was that their data collection and reporting functions were not coherent. In the words of Paul Hale, they were the group’s Business and Quality Assurance Manager, “very scattered”. Support and housing management records were stored in different places, for example, Access databases, MS Word documents stored in an internal drive, hard copy files and separate rent management software. Staff had to carry hard copies of people’s files around with them physically. The system, says Paul, was “difficult for consistent data entry, difficult for monitoring, difficult for reporting.”
What made things more difficult still: since the young people they help often use more than one service, and since these services are provided by different teams, there was no single place to keep track of any one person’s data. “It made it very difficult to manage records,” says Paul.
The scattered approach meant that time that should have been spent providing important services to vulnerable young people was instead used in coordinating their data. It was an inefficient use of resources, frustrating for staff. Something had to change.
“We realised we needed an integrated system,” Paul says. “Our ultimate aim was to integrate all our records for an individual young person into one system.”
The system they chose was In-Form. It was customisable, user-friendly, and intuitive for users who were not confident with IT systems. Crucially it was also built by the homelessness sector for the homelessness sector: “It felt like it was built for us,” Paul says.
Since their data was scattered throughout a number of different systems, it took time for all their information to be consolidated in one place, but now the system is in place, 1625ip finds it makes a huge difference to their work.
“All our operations staff use it,” says Paul, “All support staff, all our housing staff, our rents team, our maintenance team, managers.” And on the ground, “One hundred per cent of our young people” benefit from the new system.
It’s In-Form’s flexibility that makes it such a powerful tool. Since the data is right there, and instantly accessible, it makes generating reports easy: team-level internal reports, board, commissioning, funding and annual reports can all be generated from the same source. It “allows us to report on anything we input, in any way we choose,” says Paul. And this is particularly useful for young people who work with more than one team – all their records and data are now consolidated and freely available to all staff who need them.
“What it’s ultimately done for us is to provide a ‘one stop’ resource for recording all our interactions with our service users.” Paul Hale, Business and Quality Assurance Manager 1625 Independent People.
In-Form has given 1625ip “absolute confidence in our data,” Paul says. Not only is the information comprehensive and reliable, but In-Form “makes it easier to see where there are gaps in the data. Critically, we have a much better understanding of what the data is telling us.”
The information is working harder for 1625ip and their clients. It can also now be shared internally and with partner organisations, allowing 1625ip to easily share risk assessments with social workers, for example.
Dealing with accommodation is a huge part of 1625ip’s work. Now that In-Form’s Rent module has become an integral part of the system, Paul says that they have “a much cleaner flow of communication internally” and better information-sharing relationships with service users and landlords.
The flexibility of the system has also allowed 1625ip to develop their own custom set of six indicators to measure the impact of their work, so as Paul says, “we can see what we are achieving with young people more effectively than we could do before In-Form”.
In-Form is internet-based, and this is also a huge advantage for 1625ip. For one thing, it helps in the field, where staff can access all the information they need, and update it as required, from their mobiles and laptops. It’s also enabled mobile working “much more than our previous system” according to Paul, which has made the transition to remote working under Covid much easier.
“We’ve got an integrated system, which is absolutely what we were aiming for,” Paul Hale.
Now that In-Form has become an integral part of 1625ip’s work, the organisation is looking at ways to get even more from the system. They’ve recruited a new dedicated data coordinator, and are planning to customise records so that individual teams can work remotely even more effectively.
The organisation is increasingly interested in and required to evaluate the results of their work in entirely new ways. Thanks to In-Form, this will not present a problem to 1625ip. Since the system allows records to be built in different ways, Paul says he is confident they can evaluate their impact in new ways and meet current and new contract requirements.
In-Form has allowed 1625 Independent People to modernise their system. It’s given them the flexibility and confidence they need to improve their relationships, both with the young people they work with and with partner organisations. It’s also allowed them to expand their workforce and look to the future so they can continue their work and reach out to help even more vulnerable young people.
“I would absolutely recommend In-Form. I’m not aware of a better product on the market”. Paul Hale.