A story from the pandemic

Our staff and volunteers are a marvellous team and even when the first lockdown arrived in March 2020 we only closed for a few short days. A lot of the team, and our clients, had to shield and our face-to-face interviews with clients suspended.

Team members having to shield were, though, happy to carry on working from home. So in no time they got the basic service up an running on a post and telephone basis. It was a struggle to keep up because without access to the office and our case files even routine tasks took a lot longer to perform.

Shortcomings in our dated supporting technology also quickly became apparent. So we set about planning for working in the “new normal” which we could see needed to support flexible working options: in the office, at home or anywhere remotely.

In December we replaced all of our hardware with refurbished laptops, docking stations and a number of dual screen facilities. This was a necessary change in our platform to enable us to introduce our new case recording system (see below). The cost of £4,500 was kindly and generously funded by Suffolk County Councillor, Stuart Lawson from his locality budget.

At the same time we upgraded our operating system to Office 365 with cloud storage offering much better security, and this enabled us to introduce new DAS email addresses/licences replacing the use of personal emails by trustees in particular. The £1,000 cost for this was funded by another Suffolk County Councillor’s locality budget Patricia O’Brien and by availing use of Microsoft’s arrangements for “non-profits”.

During January and February 2021 we made the switch to a new case recording system: CharityLog and migrated our 80,000 client files across. This would not have been possible without the pro bono support of our friend Simon Shaw, IT expert par excellence! CharityLog will make our working more productive and fully support the production of flexible impact data to support funder applications and subsequent end of grant performance reports. The cost of £4,500 was funded in full by The Mrs LD Rope Third Settlement Charity whose regular support to DAS over the years has been invaluable.

Overall, the development is both supportive of agile working and secures us against any cause for a close down in future be that today’s pandemic or tomorrow’s or any other occasion threatening access to the office. It represents a significant upgrading in our resilience and the improved efficiency & productivity means we can help more clients without a proportional increase in staffing and volunteers having to attend the office all at the same time.